Competition

Recently, my friend came across an email he’d received from his boss. The more I think about it the more I want to discuss the topic with him.

The email reads Our competition is doing it, so let’s jump in. At first, the statement sounds right and feels like it can get one motivated to get with the program and try to stay competitive. There are a few dimensions I’d like to discuss that may have some bearing on weather or not this jumping in is a good idea.

Dimension 1: Jump off a cliff
Remember that old saying If all your friends were jumping off a cliff would you? Well, that’s kind of like what this statement is answering. Yes, we are going to jump off that cliff because our competitors are doing it. Are our competitors making sustainable profits from jumping off the cliff? If so, then I’m all for jumping in and developing a plan to get some of those profits too. If they aren’t and they are all just following another business trend, then we’re all going to feel the pain.

Dimension 2: Differentiation
Does jumping in with our competitors compromise our company’s differentiation? In other words, is what we’re going to do in effect put us on the same shelf as the rest of the competition where it’s hard for a customer to recognize any difference between a large number of alternatives? (Have you ever been to the health care isle and seen the number of different toothpaste?) If our business fails to deliver a differentiated product in a saturated market how can we stay competitive? Also, does jumping in take away what makes our company what it is?

Dimension 3: Follow the Leader
This Dimension is probably a continuance of Dimension 1. The follow the leader attitude is not an attitude I would want my business to take. It says to our customers that we can’t come up with any ideas ourselves so we have to rely on what our competitors do to stay in the game. In a perfect world, wouldn’t a company want to stay ahead of their competitors, not right behind them? It all goes back to having intelligent outside of the box creative thinkers who help drive innovation in your company. Fostering creativity usually brings innovation, which can help your organization stay ahead of the game and on top of the competition.

These are just a couple of the things I was thinking about when I first read my friend’s email. There are many other things to think about I’m sure, but for starters we’ll go from here.

Halo Effect [Review]

About the Author

This book really is great if you want balance between the Follow our success plan! business management books. In the very first chapter we realize how little we really know about the business world and how it is studied in famous books such as In Search of Excellence and Good to Great. We really can’t predict the things that happen out there as much as we can predict we will be hit by a speeding train on the way to work. Well maybe that wasn’t exactly what the book was going for, but it’s true. More or less the book introduces us to several key points to remember when reading any business/management blueprint.

The biggest mistake in these types of success blueprint books are this: The Halo Effect. It’s that simple. We put that Halo on successful companies when we talk about what the company did to get successful. If you see a company doing well then it seems like a good idea to practice their management style and follow in their footsteps as much as possible.

Good idea?
No!
Why not?

Correlation does not prove causation.

There are more factors that play in the success of a company (like risk) than just internal management and capabilities. Things like competition, environment and position play a huge role in the success of a company and ultimately it’s image. This is what many of the success blueprint books overlook.

Halo Effect opens up your mind to new views on old ideas. Check it out. I know I’m not doing it justice by only touching on the topics here.

Cyber Warfare

Hello China, I see that you’ve been fingered for a number of recent computer attacks across the globe.

Here and Here and God only knows where else you’ve raised the preverbal Red Flag.

Something that the US public may or may not know is that you’ve been around the block once or twice when it comes to information gathering activities (and so has the US). This should come as no surprise to anyone that China has hacked into or attacked US DoD computers previously. The US (I’m sure) has done it to yours as well. This is one big circle of hacking that only draws the spotlight of the media when one of us gets caught.

I have faith in the US government’s security systems to the extent that any major potentially harmful or undermining data security threat is taken care of with extreme prejudice. It would not be in the best interest of the country if any government put its protected systems up for attack via Internet by anyone. I’m not saying that important data can’t be lost or found, I’m just saying that there are very strict security measures in place to protect important DoD data. Not all the people who work for the US government are incompetent.

In the future wars will be waged on the Internet, through cyberspace. We are at that point in time where all sides are gearing up for the major battle. Who will come out on top? We will. Why? Because we have Steve Jobs. No, in all honesty, I believe that the ones who come out on top will be the ones who unplug everything. Sad state of affairs, but honestly how else can you survive a cyber war? By eliminating the battlefield all together is the only sure thing. Having all the computer geeks in the server room with you is another.

PS: Wow, I love this subject. I think I’ll go to the library and check out as many books as possible on the subject of Cyber Warfare and counterintelligence. Until then…

Cool Software Alert

CoRD

Description (in their words): CoRD is a remote desktop client for Microsoft Terminal Services servers. This means you can connect to a computer running Windows and control the computer remotely.

Although I’ve only been using this software for about 2 days, I find it very affordable (free) and very powerful (if you use RDP). It works better than MS RDP for Mac OS X. Just give it a try and you’ll see what I mean. You can actually play around with the RDP connection windows, where in MS RDP you are severely limited to what you can do. It also renders the remote desktop 10 times better than MS RDP.

Give it a try.

Wikipedia? yes/no

To Wikipedia or Not to Wikipedia?

The question of should we (students/professionals) site Wikipedia as a credible source has been in my mind ever since I started browsing the Wikipedia site. I will attempt to explore the pros and cons of using Wikipedia, but given the nature of the beast we should NEVER site Wikipedia.

First, let’s examine what Wikipedia is. A Wiki is a web site that allows collaborative editing of its contents and structure by its users. pedia comes from the word Encyclopedia (I can only assume). So, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written by users of the Wikipedia site. Great, but that leaves us with a couple of issues.

Who is editing the content? Teenagers? College Professors? Nine year olds? take your pick. Pretty much anyone with a computer can edit the content on Wikipedia. In fact, this is part of the appeal. Just one problem… They can edit and write what they want and it could be WRONG! Yes, folks, no one is perfect and not everyone has benevolent intentions. Yes Wikipedia has protected content in some places where you have to register and have an account to edit the content, but nevertheless, you still have malevolence and just plain stupid people making additions to the information. There are benevolent people out there checking the content on Wikipedia and making sure that it’s at least somewhat credible and accurate. But when you have a limited number of people checking millions of entries, this becomes a big problem real fast. In Wikipedia’s defense there is a certain incentive for the editor to be accurate and un-bias. If they’re not, they lose their credibility. Is that enough though? Especially when you can just turn around and create another account.

I will say this for Wikipedia: It’s good for top level, general introductory information. Don’t rely on it to be correct 90% (yea I better be careful with my percentages huh?) of the time, but at least you may get an idea of what you need to know. It’s not what I call citable material. For professional research as well as academic research use something other than Wikipedia.

As far as creating a Wiki site I think its a really great idea. Under a professional atmosphere a lot can be gained by creating a Wiki site. A site where employees or other professionals can go to write their documentation not only makes creating a searchable knowledge base easy, but it makes learning and productivity more efficient and effective. Wiki’s are a great tool for professionals to build knowledge bases.For example, lets say we have an employee write a procedure on how to scan groceries on their corporate Wiki site. That procedure is read by everyone else and eventually other people find this information useful company-wide OR they find an alternative, more efficient procedure for scanning groceries and edit the content accordingly. See the system at work? It’s pretty nice when you have people who are knowledgeable and benevolent in their intentions.

Hot: Apple iPhone

One word can describe the feeling I had when I first saw what Steve Jobs had in mind in his keynote speech. Excitement! I believe the rumors were true folks. Apple has done it again. I believe they have taken the idea and ran with it here. Combining the audio player (iPod), phone, and network communications into one package is not a new idea, but Apple takes it to a whole new level.

I believe it was Scott McNealy who said The answering machine put voice mail by the desk, and then it went back into the network. He continued, Your iPod is like your home answering machine. I guarantee you it will be hard to sell an iPod five or seven years from now when every cell phone can access your entire music library wherever you are. The folks at The Register had this to add: Well, sure. Unless your iPod is your cell phone.

How true that it is all coming into focus now. Well, now you have it Mr. McNealy, Apple has raised the bar. You can’t help getting pumped up while Mr. Jobs is introducing this new product. I did at first, but then my business brain kicked in and developed questions and possible answers to those questions in the form of business opportunity. For example, the iPhone looks very fragile and the screen is going to be very important to preserve, so why not produce a protective cover? I wager they’re already out there by now though.

It is possible to come up with various pros and cons just by Steve’s demo. You’ll see what I mean:

Cons:
Fragility. Don’t drop this thing! Scratch city folks. The more gadgets the more that can break.
Price: I can only imagine.
Storage: ONLY 4 or 8 GB? Looks like I can’t really have my entire music collection on there, needless to say only a couple of movies.

Bringing all these technologies together is a good thing, but each piece of technology has it’s limits when brought together here. For example, they now have only 4 or 8 gb of storage for videos or music or whatever and that’s only as much as the top side iPod Nano. The more you bring together in one device the more you narrow the margin of utility for each feature.

Pros:
iPod functionality: Just as Steve said it You can touch your music.
Sensors: A must have especially with the touch screen.
Sleek design: Just as the other Apple products are visually appealing, this one carries on that tradition.
Network Functionality: Just what we need: more crackberry addicts. What would we call the iPhone addicts? iAddicts?

All in all I’m totally pumped and curious about this new gadget. I hope to own one later on down the line, but I’ll wait until the time is right in the product life cycle for that.

Get ready everyone. It’s going to be a heck of a ride.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_mcnealy

Faces of IT

I just recently had an interview with an IT manager who elaborated on a preconceived notion I had about the types of people that go to college, graduate and get a job in IT. Putting the two thoughts together, it goes something like this:

Student:
When a person goes to college they have the choice to take computer related courses and eventually get a degree in that field. There is the type of student who chooses this field because of their belief that they’ll make a lot of money, etc cetera, we’ll call them surfers (one reason is that they are surfing the IT wave and another is because they think that just because they can navigate the web they are qualified to operate a super computer). These types aren’t interested in the field at all, just the glamor that is associated with it. Of course there are different reasons why people chose to study CS/CE or MIS, but we are only concerned about the people who graduate and attempt to get a position in the IT field.

Then there’s the type of student who chooses this field because that’s what they were BORN TO DO, we’ll call them naturals (obviously). Get my meaning? There is nothing else they care about, but IT. They have the heart and soul of an IT professional and are curious about new technologies and have the natural abilities and qualities desired by IT managers. Naturals develop their skills their entire life and when they do hold an IT job they don’t stop working at the office, they have a lab at home they use to further develop and hone their skills.

Somewhere in the middle are the folks who have the abilities and qualities desired by IT managers, but aren’t in the study of CS/CE or MIS. We’ll call these people lost (from the perspective on an IT professional we need you, but you’re lost and we can’t find you). They more likely study Finance, Business or Philosophy. Only later on in their career do they realize they can do the job and love it at the same time.

Professional Work:
The surfers are prepared (more or less with a degree) by their respective colleges, universities or technical schools and they get that first job in the IT field. What they didn’t expect was that it’s harder than they thought and they need to actually do some real work. God forbid they might actually have to write a line of code. What’s that? Write code? I never once wrote code in college. they say with great surprise and astonishment. Their IT peers will give them assistance with only intermediate or advanced problems, but will leave the surfers to figure out the basics for themselves. Of course, they should already know the basics. Right? It turns out that the surfer doesn’t have the aptitude or problem solving skills to do the job. After a while the surfer becomes distraught and eventually loses patience with it all and switches fields (before management forces them).

The naturals thrive and do well in their field all the while holding a degree possibly from the same university or technical school as a surfer. They are educated the same as a surfer, but probably got more out of it and actually when home and practiced the coding assignments. Naturals could possibly be the ones that start computer clubs or the like. When they get in the work there’s no stopping them. Granted, everyone is green at first, but get past that stage soon.

The lost are eventually pulled to the IT field in one way or another and they realize they can do the job and at the end of the day go home satisfied. Here again, they don’t really practice CS/CE outside of work, but they are still able to do their job well. Problem solving and aptitude are not a problem for them, but they still need help from their IT peers (mostly in cases of intermediate and advanced levels).

Moral of the story:
Don’t go into a field you don’t have the heart for. Choose something you like…even if it’s basket weaving.

Personally:
I didn’t choose IT. IT chose me. Honestly, it’s what I love to do.