Reading list: Personal MBA

Personal MBA: by Josh Kaufman

While taking some time out in Fiji I returned to my backed up reading list. One on the books that I has started but failed to complete before was Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA. I spotted this in an airport bookshop on a different trip, then cheekily downloaded it to the kindle app on my iPad for a fraction of the shell price. Sorry traditional retail, but get over it.

When I first picked it up i was struck by how closely the themes of the book mapped to the thinking and approach of the brainmates Product Management methodology. What I have really been enjoying is the very clearly articulated thinking that chucks down many of the terms that we use and disambiguates them very effectively.

For example he has by effectively differentiated between a product and a service. His definition of a product is something (almost anything) that can repeatable deliver value without the direct involvement of person. A service on the other hand does requires a persons direct involvement to deliver value and therefore lacks scalability. I think a this is a very useful distinction. I have often been asked if software is a product or a service. Under this definition it is clearly a product as it does not require a persons time and effort as part of the the delivery process.

There are many other examples of concepts that are very familiar yet are difficult to clearly articulate. Josh has tackled this challenge and has delivered a package of neatly summarized tools to test and support any business idea against.

When I get back to Sydney, I will review my notes and create a checklist of things to consider that will make Brainmates and the training business in particular more effective for 2012.

just a post about coupons.

This is not really the place for simple free writing. but at the same time it is important to have somethgin to say about anything really. I just need to write and get past the first few lines of nothing to say. The first thing that cane to mind this eventing was spreets, and groupon and all of these other deals aggregation sites.

When i first came across them i thought that they were a ridiculous idea. Yet the businesses that are investing in them suggest that there is more to it than that. Why would a business offer a such huge discounts to such a a large number of potential customers? It doesn’t seem to be a sustainable model to me, yet every day there are hundreds of people that sign up for the deals, handover their cash and presumably get a product at a great price.
The businesses offering the deals get a flood of sales at (i imagine) much lower margins than normal but they get a chance to prove themselves to a new customer.

OK, so this can work for products where the main component is a service where the margins are generally higher than for a physical product. This allows a steep discount to be applied without making a horrible loss. business that offer a deal that give them a zero or negative margin are in for a rough ride. It also requires a product that has excess inventory that would otherwise be wasted. Again this can apply to services where there are peak times and quite times. The business can require that the offer be channeled in to the quiet times to improve the overall revenue, again providing that this is not done at a loss.

The biggest problem that I see here is that the type of customers that these group voucher deal sites attract are the least loyal, price sensitive bunch around. They will hop off to the next deal without even remembering who they last bought a product from.

Brief update….

It has been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. I have run the half marathon and although I just missed out on my target time I was really happy with my 1:03:19 time fo rthe 21k run.
I didn’t get into the NYC marathon. Maybe next year.
I have changed jobs, leaving the bank and moving to eBay. This kicked with a trip to the US to get to know the US team and find out about upcoming projects. My first day in the Sydney office is tommorow.
That’s all for the moment.

Identity Blogging

It is time to get this site going about more than just my ‘idle’ mumblings and out of date running updates. There is a topic of conversation that my career has revolved around like a satellite around a planet. It is the story of online identities and their use and misuse.

For me this has appeared in projects where two ISP businesses have brought their customers under one organisation and these customers do not have unique username to identify them selves to the new ISP. What! Two “Fred”s! Will the real “Fred” please step forward? Hmm, if only it was that simple. In the late ’90 when ISP’s and online portals were coming together this happened time and again, and it was always messy.

At around the same time the ‘kiddies’ got their hands on software that would allow them to steal passwords from customers in the school holidays. So now usernames and passwords are under siege. A single stolen password could be reused by the baddies over and over again without recourse.

Then spam came along and polluted the one personal identifier that the whole internet had agreed from the outset would be unique. Bugga. Stopping spam and protecting mailboxes became another major project. Without a way of identifying who the hell sent the spam in the first place, or even being sure who sent what looks like the good email, then all manner of arcane solutions had to be employed.

By now the ‘kiddies’ have grown up and are selling their password stealing skills to the spammers who are selling their spam networks to real criminals, who don’t want you email. They want your bank account. Enter the rise and rise of ‘phishing’.

So now I am looking at ways of improving on the humble static password. When was the last time you changed yours? Are you sure nobody else knows it?

All of these things tie right back to ‘identity’ (as the industry insists on calling it). Who am I? Who are you? And how do we prove it to each other in such a way that it doesn’t get in the way of what we were trying to do in the first place.

I want to talk about this here because there is a lot in this idle mind that I need to get out. I know this stuff and I hear some of the biggest names in many different industries grappling with the same problems and, in my opinion, in quite misdirected ways. This surge of blog energy was inspired by an interview with Kim Cameron on Microsoft’s Channel 9. I get frustrated because i believe that they are trying to solve the wrong problem, and as a result won’t get the outcome they are seeking.

Spyware Rant

I wanted to talk a bit about spyware. This is not a new topic in itself. Spyware has been around for some years now. Really ever since web browsers allowed the use of cookies that allowed someone else to watch where you have been surfing I there has been a threat to our online privacy.

But although privacy is important that is not the real threat. There is a real danger that spyware has already found its way onto your computer. Over the last three years there has been a very dangerous convergence between organized crime and the writers and creators of these online nasties.

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