Why Winner-Take-AII Is Winning

Is the building supply industry going to turn into a winner-take-all market? Do you have a strategy if technology disrupts the distribution of goods and service? The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Why Winner-Take-AII Is WinningSecond Machine Age.jpg

Why are winner-take-all markets more common now? Shifts in the technology for production and distribution, particularly these three changes:

  1. the digitization of more and more information, goods, and services,
  2. the vast improvements in telecommunications and, to a lesser extent, transportation, and
  3. the increased importance of networks and standards.

Albert Einstein once said that black holes are where God divided by zero, and that created some strange physics. While the marginal costs of digital goods do not quite approach zero, they are close enough to create some pretty strange economics. As discussed in chapter 3, digital goods have much lower marginal costs of production than physical goods. Bits are cheaper than atoms, not to mention human labor.

Digitization creates winner-take-all markets because, as noted above, with digital goods capacity constraints become increasingly irrelevant. A single producer with a website can, in principle, fill the demand from millions or even billions of customers. Jenna Marbles’s homemade YouTube video “How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking,” to take one wildly successful example, garnered 5.3 million views the week she posted it in July 2010.13 She’s now earned millions of dollars from over one billion viewings of her videos around the world. Every digital app developer, no matter how humble its offices or how small its staff, almost automatically becomes a micro-multinational, reaching global audiences with a speed that would have been inconceivable in the first machine age.

In contrast, the economics of personal services (nursing) or physical work (gardening) are very different, since each provider, no matter how skilled or hard-working, can only fulfill a tiny fraction of the overall market demand. When an activity transitions from the second category to the first the way tax preparation did, the economics shift toward winner-take-all outcomes. What’s more, lowering prices, the traditional refuge for second-tier products, is of little benefit for anyone whose quality is not already at or near the world’s best. Digital goods have enormous economies of scale, giving the market leader a huge cost advantage and room to beat the price of any competitor while still making a good profit.” Once their fixed costs are covered, each marginal unit produced costs very little to deliver.

12 Apps for a Better Life

The following applications and websites can be used to make your job and life better. These are just a few of the applications in the marketplace. I’ve used most of the services listed and may be contacted if you want more information.

Time Management

Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique is a time management method. The technique uses a timer to break down work into an interval of 25 minutes then take short breaks. This method is based on the idea that a frequent break improves mental agility.

RescueTime

RescueTime is a time tracking application that gives you an accurate picture of how you spend your time on your devices. This application highlights poor usage of your time. It can also set alarms to tell you how much time you spent on Facebook.

Doodle

Doodle is a cloud-based calendar tool for coordinating meetings. Users are surveyed to determine the best date and time to meet.

Remember the Milk (RTM)

RTM is a cloud-based task and time management. Some of the features are emailing your task to RTM. Also, it can be used to setup tags, locations and integrates with Outlook and Gmail.

IQTell

IQTell is a cloud-based task and time management application. It utilizes the concepts and techniques designed in GTD by David Allen. This application will sync with emails, Evernote and ICloud.

Collaboration

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based team collaboration tool. Slack allows a team or group to communicate on one platform. This platform allows communication without email or group texting.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a file hosting service. Dropbox can be used as a collaboration of files with other users. It’s a good application for sharing large files or photos with others.

Organization

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a diagram used to visually organize information. This method is used in brainstorming, memory, visual thinking and problem solving. You can use paper or software to mind map.

IFTTT

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Slack, Twitter, and Evernote. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”. Here are some of my recipes:

  • If new SMS received from [Phone Number], then post a message to a Slack channel.
  • Email me when the president signs a new law.
  • If the new final score for the Clemson Tigers, then send me an email at [Email].

Evernote

Evernote is an application that can be used to organize data and list by using notebooks and tags. The application allows users to create text, web pages, photographs, voice memos, or handwritten notes. Also, Evernote has a good search engine inside the application.

Trello

Trello is a cloud-based project management system. This uses boards (Projects) and cards (tasks). You can also set up teams for your projects.

Focus@Will

Focus@Will is a music based on human neuroscience. It helps you focus, reduce distractions maintaining your productivity, and retaining information when working, writing and reading. This is a paid subscriptions service, but other music services might offer Focus@Will playlists.

HBR: Build a Great Company Culture with Help from Technology

Are you making sure employees are challenged, motivated, engaged, and know that they are contributing to the overall success of the company? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Ashley Goldsmith and Leighanne Levensaler

Build a Great Company Culture with Help from Technology

Culture, and how to build and sustain one, is one of the toughest challenges for managers, especially in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive organizations. Every organization wants to create a culture that works from a set of core values, where everybody is on the same page about what’s important, where the company is going, and how it’s going to get there. But what happens when the external competitive environment — and the direction of the company — changes? And what happens as advances in technology constantly change how customers and employees expect to interact with your company? How do you manage the evolution of your company’s culture, and hold on to what makes you great, even as you change and grow?

Here at Workday, these questions have been central to our existence from day one. We were founded in 2005, and our cofounders, Aneel Bhusri and Dave Duffield who were both already highly successful entrepreneurs, understood that any successful culture would be built on a core set of values. For us, those values are employees, customer service, integrity, innovation, fun, and profitability. We are certain that our high customer satisfaction ratings and top spot on many best-place-to-work lists come from our early recognition that culture permeates every sales call, every employee interaction, and every product innovation.

As a provider of cloud-based finance and HR applications designed to help companies change and grow, our customers rightly expect us to lead by example. At the same time, we listen closely to our customers’ business challenges and successes — which in turn helps us change and grow.

While we hold on tightly to our core values, we strive to keep evolving our culture to meet the changing needs of our employees and customers. Perhaps not too surprisingly, technology plays a central role (after all, we’re a technology company). But if you asked most people to list the things that create and maintain a strong company culture, chances are they wouldn’t list technology. We’ve found that you can’t create a culture just through values, new processes, or an organizational restructure. Those things are necessary, but we like to think of values as the beating heart of culture, processes and organizational structure as the brain, and technology as the nervous system that makes sure heart and head are working together to move us forward.

For us, giving our people tools that empower them to work how they want to work — in everything from finding their next career opportunity, to hiring their next employee, to making data-driven day-to-day business decisions — is critical to holding on to the integrity of our culture in a fast-changing environment. This culture of empowerment has helped keep the company true to the core values on which we were originally founded. Here are the main components of that culture, and how they work:

Democratization of information. In their personal lives, people have become accustomed to having access to any piece of information they want at a moment’s notice. This hasn’t always been the case in the workplace. Data was usually kept in the hands of a select few, and extracting and using that data in a meaningful way was a long, painful process. But modern enterprise technologies and applications are pushing access to data and information to the front lines.

One area we see this playing out is within our own HR organization. At Workday, managers don’t have to spend valuable time with HR discussing headcount or status updates on new job openings — they already have this information at their fingertips. Instead, managers can spend their time with HR talking about how to get top performers to the next level, keep people who are at risk of leaving the organization, and align workers to meet business objectives. They can focus on creating value for the business by mobilizing talent.

Another area where this plays out is in hiring. When it comes to recruiting for fast-growing companies, talent acquisition needs to be efficient without sacrificing quality. Our managers can see all interview, resume, and references information in one place from any device, anywhere. Whether sitting on a plane or walking between meetings, a manager can immediately see the hiring team’s feedback and decide whether to move a candidate forward with a tap of their phone.

It’s good for any company to be able to make faster decisions based on immediate access to data, but it’s also good for the candidate — no repeated requests for a resume or work samples, no making them wait longer than necessary for news about next steps. And, with the race for top talent, speed-to-hire is crucial. And this says something to a candidate about our culture right from the start: We move quickly and we respect your time.

This democratization of information also enables greater transparency, which is critical to sustaining a positive culture. For example, we conduct online chat sessions that provide employees with the opportunity to ask our top executives whatever questions are on their minds. This is done in the spirit of keeping employees informed and is at the center of everything we do.

Culture of opportunity. Another area we’re passionate about is creating what we call a culture of opportunity. We’re not about stringent policies or old-fashioned career paths. We’re about being transparent about new positions and opportunities that exist within the organization and then providing the tools and information our people need to pursue them.

For example, we are rolling out a tool that will give employees a personalized view of positions within Workday that are a good fit for them based on the actual movement and success of other employees who held similar positions. Besides a real-time glimpse into the vitality of the company and how it’s evolving, it’s an employee-centric view of possible career paths.

An employee can not only see what moves others have made, they can also reach out and connect to those specific individuals to talk with them about their experience. With a tap you can introduce yourself to set up time to connect or simply ask a question.

And as mentioned earlier, we listen to and learn from customers. Adobe, for example, often “pulses” its employees to get quick feedback on their experience. We were inspired by this approach when we built a tool that we use to ask one or two simple questions that can be answered via any device in a few seconds such as, “Has your manager talked to you about your career goals in the last month?” Our aim is to quickly and easily capture employee sentiment so that we can calibrate our efforts to reinforce our culture.

Performance enablement. For us, performance enablement is an evolution of the traditional performance management process that stresses regular, ongoing feedback, and takes an employee-centric approach to helping our people thrive. Several of our customers, like Ellie Mae, are passionate about this approach as well and have set a great example to follow.

Measuring an employee’s impact is more efficient and ultimately more effective thanks to tools and technology that allow us to regularly capture and aggregate real-time information.

The annual review process at some companies is not very transparent — and, there can be demoralizing surprises. It can also be demoralizing to only receive feedback once or twice a year. We now expect managers to have regular check-ins with their direct hires, ideally on a bi-weekly basis.

It doesn’t make sense to only flag areas for improvement once a year, and more often than not, an early course correction heads off bigger issues. By the same token, there are many positive behaviors, such as suggestions for process improvement or innovation, which might not get immediate feedback in a more traditional environment that are important to encourage.

From a manager’s point of view, regular check-ins give more visibility into not just their team, but how their workers are interacting with other parts of the organization.

In the end, our goal is to hire and retain the best people in order to provide the best service to our customers. To do this, we need to keep our employees happy, make sure they are challenged, motivated, and engaged, and know that they are contributing to the overall success of the company. We want to keep learning, adapting, and listening to our people as we grow. We know that technology is most effective when it’s designed to support and encourage the behaviors and processes that lead to innovation — and we believe that this is what will continue to foster our great company culture.

 

HBR: How More Accessible Information Is Forcing B2B Sales to Adapt

How technology and social media are changing the way customer buys? How are you changing to meet these new purchasing habits? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Andris A. Zoltners, Sally E. Lorimer, PK Sinha.

How More Accessible Information Is Forcing B2B Sales to Adapt

Over the past 20 years, information technology and digital channels have changed the way consumers shop for products ranging from cars to homes to electronics. Those forces are dramatically changing the way B2B companies and their customers approach buying and selling, too.

Business buyers are more connected and informed than ever before. Sellers must respond. For buyers and sellers alike, this creates complexity, anxiety, and opportunity all at the same time.

From the buyer’s perspective, information technology and digital channels provide access to information and enable self-sufficiency. When a buyer wants to learn about virtually any product or service, an internet search yields thousands (if not millions) of results, including online articles, videos, white papers, blogs, and social media posts. In addition to supplier websites that showcase specific solutions, there are likely to be online sources (ranging from the self-serving to the unbiased) to help buyers learn and compare solution alternatives. Buyers can also use self-service digital channels for new or repeat purchases and for training and support. Using information technology and digital channels, buyers can take over many steps of buying that salespeople once cherished as their source of value.

Buyers are at different levels of self-sufficiency: any single buyer can be at one level for some purchases and at a different level for others. Sometimes buyers prefer to eliminate the salesperson completely. According to one corporate technology buyer: “Our supplier’s customized self-service purchasing portal makes it easy to place reorders, track shipping, and return products hassle-free.” Other times buyers seek help from salespeople. The same corporate buyer relies on salespeople when evaluating new technologies: “It’s more efficient to work with a few trusted salespeople, compared to spending hours on my own sifting through all the information and misinformation that’s out there.”

Because of the diversity of buyer self-sufficiency, the traditional methods sellers use to customize their selling approach for customers are no longer enough. Considering factors such as customer potential and needs is still relevant. But today, customer knowledge/self-sufficiency is a growing driver of how customers want to buy. At one end of the spectrum are the “super-expert” customers, skilled in gathering information from many sources and self-sufficient in using that information to make purchase decisions. At the other end of the spectrum are the “information-seeking” customers, who want help with examining and evaluating the plethora of information. Many customers are in between these two extremes, or are at different points at different times or for different purchases.

Smart sellers match their selling approach to the customer’s level of buying knowledge and self-sufficiency. For example, when leaders at Dow Corning observed in the early 2000s that some customers wanted an easier, more affordable way to buy standard silicone products, they created Xiameter, a brand that includes thousands of less-differentiated products sold exclusively through a low-cost, no-frills, self-service online sales channel. Customers who desired a higher-touch approach could still purchase products under the Dow Corning brand name, which also includes specialty silicones backed by research and technical services.

As sellers need a more customized approach to reaching customers, they have a big arsenal of data and technology at their disposal. Systems (e.g., CRM), tools (e.g., data management, analytics), infrastructures (e.g., mobile, cloud), and information (e.g., big data) give sellers knowledge about buyers and enable sales force members to make smarter decisions. And sellers who once connected with customers primarily through personal selling can now use an array of digital communication channels to supplement or supplant face-to-face sales efforts.

Consider the impact of information technology and digital channels from the seller’s perspective. Here are examples from several industries.

  • Finding banking customers: “Social media allows us to cost-effectively reach out to more prospects and showcase our services.”
  • Understanding specialty chemicals customers: “Big data and analytics help us improve customer targeting and achieve more cost-effective deployment.”
  • Acquiring advertising customers: “We now have richer demographic information to help us create more powerful sales messages, resulting in more sales.”
  • Serving and growing business logistics customers: “Our salespeople use a business review app to guide quarterly account reviews with major customers. By sharing data about performance and cost savings, these discussions enhance customer value and retention.”

Information technology and digital channels can help sellers become more effective and efficient, but they can also be a source of disharmony and confusion if implemented without thought. Too many sellers have wasted millions of dollars on sales technologies such as CRM systems and data warehouses that never lived up to their potential.

Success for sellers requires many sales force changes beyond information technology and digital solutions. To start, salespeople need new competencies. Customers are no longer interested in meeting with “talking brochures,” so salespeople must do more than share product information. They must adapt to each customer’s level of knowledge and self-sufficiency. They must use email, social media, webinars, video conferencing, and other tools judiciously to maximize their own productivity and make things more efficient for buyers. They must help their companies coordinate customer outreach across multiple communication channels to ensure buyers get a well-orchestrated and consistent message.

For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, gone are the days when the majority of physician education occurred through face-to-face contact between salespeople and physicians. Companies are now tracking individual physician communication preferences and are reaching out with the combination of face-to-face visits and/or digital methods (e.g., websites, email, podcasts, virtual detailing, video conferencing, mobile apps) that best meets each physician’s needs. Salespeople need competencies as orchestrators who can ensure an effective and efficient connection.

Developing new sales force competencies is just a start. Sales leaders must also reengineer their sales forces by implementing changes across the entire range of sales force decisions: roles, size and structure, hiring, training, coaching, incentive compensation, performance management, and sales support systems.

Book Review: What If?

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe is an excellent quick read. Below are the three questions I enjoyed the most:What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Longest Sunset

What is the longest possible sunset you can experience while driving, assuming we are obeying the speed limit and driving on paved roads?

—Michael Berg

Go to Answer:

Phone Keypad

I use one of those old phones where you type with numbers—for example, to type “Y”, you press 9 three times. Some words have consecutive letters on the same number. When they do, you have to pause between letters, making those words annoying to type. What English word has the most consecutive letters on the same key?

Stewart Bishop

Go to Answer:

FedEx Bandwidth

When – if ever – will the bandwidth of the Internet surpass that of FedEx?

—Johan Öbrink

Go to Answer:

 

Debugging the Machine

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson is a great book. He explains how these groups of people created the digital age. Below is a good story about debugging.

Debugging the MachineThe Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

In addition, her crew helped to popularize the terms bug and debugging. The Mark II version of the Harvard computer was in a building without window screens. One night the machine conked out, and the crew began looking for the problem. They found a moth with a wingspan of four inches that had gotten smashed in one of the electromechanical relays. It was retrieved and pasted into the log book with Scotch tape. “Panel F (moth) in relay,” the entry noted. “First actual case of bug being found.” From then on, they referred to ferreting out glitches as “debugging the machine.”

You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences (Forrester)

TJ Keitt writes a great blog on Customer Experiences. How are your employees engaging with your customers? Please leave a comment below.

You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences

Posted by TJ Keitt on September 25, 2014

It’s easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I’m enamored with this idea. But I’m also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own perilI agree.

More than three quarters of the information workforce — those using a computing device (e.g. PC, smartphone, tablet) at least one hour per day — interact with at least one customer as a routine part of their job. Over half of the workforce regularly interact with customers, partners, and customers. Are CX professionals thinking about the experiences these employees need as they think about customer needs? And — close to my heart as a tech guy — have they thought about what these neat digital tools can do for their employees, as they have about digital’s effect on customers?

Previously, we established that information workers require three broad freedoms: freedom to access and use information; freedom to interact with others as necessary; freedom to move when needed. In our new reportHow To Build A Technology Plan That Sustains Employee Engagement, we examine how employee satisfaction with the technologies that underlie these freedoms relates to positive employee behaviors. What this analysis netted us is the interesting picture you see below:

Our data analysis shows satisfaction with technologies that support data access, interactions and movement correlates with:

  • Independent problem solving. Employees able to identify and address client issueson their own narrow the time to resolution. And this ensures nagging customer issues don’t metastsize into full-blown customer experience breakdowns.
  • Awareness of how employee actions relation to the business’s success. If employees feel that there is a purpose to their work, then they are more inclined to take it seriously. Furthermore, they’re more likely toinvest their energy in fixing issues as they arise.
  • Employee retention. Turnover kills customer experience. Holding on to workers ensures continuity in customer experienceand the opportunity to continue to build on improvements. It also ensures that the company can maintain relationships workers form with their customers, business partners, and colleagues.
  • Employees’ willingness to advocate for the organization. Workers can help draw in new customers through recommendationsto family and friends. They can also identify qualified prospective employees when they recommend the company as an employer to that same social circle.

All of these look like great qualities to have in your workforce, right? Well, they don’t happen if you don’t link employee intention (get data, work with people, change context) with enabling tools (PCs, smartphones, tablets, applications) in a set of journeys that results in each worker meeting their personal goals. This argues for customer experience techniques being brought into the technology management organization. And it means that CX leaders and their technologist counterparts need to work together not only on creating compelling customer experiences, but also productive employee experiences that ensure workers can meet customer expectations.

This is an ongoing conversation, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What do you think?