Friday, August 30, 2019

Specialize and Niche?


There is a lot of business advice out there—most of it of questionable value.

One common piece of advice is that you should specialize in a narrow niche.  A classic example these "marketing gurus" give is that, if you are a web designer, you should specialize in designing sites for dentists.

They go on to say that, if you are a dentist, who would you choose: the web designer who specializes in dental sites, or a general business website designer?

Well, if I was a dentist, I certainly wouldn't pick the web designer who only works for dentists!  The last thing I'd want is a cookie-cutter site that looks like ALL the other dental practices out there.

This is the Attention Scarcity Age!  People are bombarded with noise and choices.  You want to stand out as an expert, not a commodity.  You want someone who is a process expert, who has honed his skills designing unique sites for a variety of clients and domains.

Remember, YOU have the content knowledge on how to be a dentist.  You can provide the content.  You need someone who will design it in a way that attracts and informs your customers.

This goes beyond web sites.  For any kind of expert or consultant, you want a process expert who works with varied clients and industries to keep his or her thinking fresh.  You don't need them to be an expert in your field.  YOU are the subject matter expert in your field.

© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in reduced costs and new revenue. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Rinse and Repeat




A powerful piece of business advice comes from your shampoo bottle: rinse and repeat.

Iteration is one of the most important, but under-used principles today. 

These days, businesses must react and respond quickly to change.  This means having to implement before something is perfected. Therefore, businesses must keep cycling through, continually delivering better versions of products and services.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Friday, August 23, 2019

Glue!


My 8 year old son decided it would be fun to make a "squeeze ball" out of a balloon, glue, and air.

A little while ago, he came into my office and was demonstrating it.  Amazingly, the glue doesn't dry or harden in the balloon.

Unfortunately, he squeezed it too hard, the balloon popped, and our clothes, my office, and my computer ended up splattered with glue...


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Teeth, Geography, and Isotopes



Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Last night, I read a fascinating article in the Economist about how anthropologists wanted to figure out if Mayan human sacrifice victims were local (hence volunteers) or slaves captured from further away.

Their method was to analyze ancient teeth from the sacrificial pit, and determine the ratios of oxygen and strontium isotopes.  As a chemistry refresher, an isotope of an element has the same number of protons, but different neutrons.  For example, oxygen atoms have 8 protons, but they can have 8 or 10 neutrons, for a total of 16 to 18 particles.  For strontium, it can be 86 or 87 total particles.

The isotopes are useful for determining geography because, in the case of oxygen, since O18 is heavier than O16, it is more likely to fall first when storms move from the sea onto land.

So, by measuring the ratio of isotopes in the teeth, they could determine the relative locations of where the victims grew up.  The surprising conclusion was that victims were both local and from other areas.  But for me, the method is the most interesting thing.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Do you Provide Software As A Service (SaaS)? What's Your Goldilocks Value?


Photo by Derick Santos from Pexels

Just like Goldilocks wanted to get comfortable at the Three Bears' house, your customers want to tune your software to their level of comfort.  The "Goldilocks Value" is my term for how complex it is to fine-tune all the settings.

ERPs (especially SAP) are infamous for all their complex set-ups. Linked In also has a reputation for a high Goldilocks Value.

If you want to attract more customers, and become the dominate application in your field, then you need to have a low Goldilocks Value—i.e. make it easy for users to customize your application.  Achieve this, and you'll have come a long way towards Strategic Simplicity®!


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pros and cons of using RPAs versus APIs for integration

My view is that APIs are always superior for integration.  

The only time to use RPAs (Robot Process Automation) are:

1. One or both of the systems to be integrated either lack an API, or the ability to call APIs.

2. The systems are legacy, and cannot be modified to provide/call APIs, or the cost of implementing an API is prohibitive given the budget or timeline.


The reason that APIs are always preferable is that the process is robust, consistent, and straight forward.  CIOs should always favor environments that work consistently, and correctly, with no surprises.

With RPAs, even with the help of today's AI, you are dealing with using software to replicate a human being interacting with a user interface.  Menus can change, be inconsistent among different screens, and screen renderings can be affected by network effects.  Creators of software interfaces designed and tested their software for use by humans, not automation.  Humans can quickly adjust to slight variations.

APIs, on the other hand, are designed specifically for bypassing human interfaces, and making software to software calls.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Who Owns That Unicorn?


Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

I recently read an interesting article in the Economist about how, for many start-ups, it gets hard to know who actually owns it.

The average successful start-up goes through 7 rounds of funding, and a lot of private sales are made. The article mentioned how, at one start-up, employees spend their time trying to keep track of shareholders using Excel spreadsheets.

I'd add this to my list of required management databases a firm should have.

For example, all CIOs should have an application database, which tracks all applications, the people responsible for them, all hardware, operating systems, etc., and downstream/upstream applications.  This database should also have the dates of the last security audit, contingency exercises, etc. and send out alerts when they are due.

Now, it looks like they should have an ownership/sales database, to track who really owns them.  This will prevent legal issues and headaches, in case the company is sold or goes public.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Monetizing Art




Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels


I like reading about things you never thought about.

In this case, it is an Economist article on how owners of multi-million dollar works of art use them to secure loans. Many art owners are not liquid, and it's not easy to buy and sell art quickly.  But loans can be arranged quickly.

It turns out this is big business, handled by both traditional banks (like Bank of America) and specialized, boutique lenders (such as Athena).

According to the article, while banks might loan $1 million for every $5 million the painting is worth,   Athena will load closer to $1 million per $2 million in value.

Art-secured loans are less risky than you might think because they only loan against works of well-known artists (like Picasso), who have longevity in the art market.

The article concludes that 90% of art lending happens in the U.S., and Europe will probably be the best prospect for loan growth.

© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Power Point "Disaster"




"Oh No!" Bob was in BIG trouble.  He had just plugged his laptop into the projector in the conference room, but now he couldn't locate his Power Point slide deck—the one he had just spent all night tweaking. The CEO and his team would be arriving any minute now to hear Bob's presentation on a new software product.

Bob had had high hopes for this presentation.  He had noticed that, during his previous presentations, the CEO had always seemed distracted and not paying attention.  Bob's proposals usually ended up low priority and not funded.  But, this time, Bob had made sure that the CEO would notice!  He added lots of colorful details to his presentation, pictures, sounds, and animations.

Now, he thought with a sigh, he would have nothing.

Just then, Bob's friend Norman walked in.  He immediately saw the look on Bob's face, and asked him what was wrong.  "I lost my presentation!"

"What?", said Norman.

"My whole presentation.  All of it!  I can't find the file and the meeting is about to begin..."

"Relax! Focus. You don't need Power Point, Bob.  You're the expert.  You KNOW what message you want to get across."

"But Norman, I don't know how to organize it! And the CEO is walking into the room now!"

"Get a grip! Can you draw a simple box?"

"Sure, I can do that."

"Then draw a simple box.  Then think of a way to make the box convey your message, simple and succinctly."

The presentation started and Bob drew a simple square box.  As he stopped to think for a moment, he could feel the CEO look at the box—and then look at Bob.  Finally, after what felt to him like 5 minutes (but was actually less than 30 seconds), Bob drew a horizontal axis called "reactive" and "proactive".  He then drew a vertical axis labelled "hi quality" and "low quality".

"The upper left side of the box represents a reactive, but high quality product.  This is our current flagship product.  Our customers love it, but we mostly attract large companies who are not cutting edge.  Meanwhile, the smaller, faster growing innovative companies go with Acme, because they stay right on the cutting edge, but their quality is not good.  They have a lot of complaints, and their customers have to constantly apply patches and upgrades.  We have a golden opportunity here to capture these companies, with a more proactive, lesser version of our flagship product, that still keeps its reliability."

Instead of being distracted and tired, the CEO was excited!  "I've been sitting through Power Point presentations all day, and was dreading another, but you made a great presentation.  Short, quick, and focused!  I totally understand what you're proposing, and I agree!.  We'll do it!"

And with that, the CEO left.

Later, Norman congratulated Bob.  "They are going with your idea and putting you in charge.  You'll have lots of meetings now."

"Yes, but I'm ditching the large, complicated slide decks.  I realize now that complexity was holding back my success in presentations.  From now on, I'm just going to draw simple boxes on paper or white board.  As a bonus, no more worrying about audio-visual glitches!"



© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Top Mistake I Made As A Company Founder




Back in 1999, during the original dot com boom, I founded ListWeasel.com, and was CEO.  We wanted to allow authors and publishers on Amazon.com (which was still just a book seller) to offer commissions to website owners who would sign up and advertise their books on their sites.  

Our big mistake was that we didn't see that Amazon could easily set up their own commission program—which they did (Amazon Associates).  Where we had to advertise and attract both authors/publishers and website owners, Amazon could simply offer commissions on all their book listings.  Because of the traffic on their site, they could advertise the program and easily attract website owners. 

This is a recurring theme in technology.  A small company is founded to service a gap in the offerings of larger companies, then the large company simply extends their offerings to close the gap.  Microsoft, for example, saw how smaller companies were providing tools and networking capabilities that weren't available with DOS and early versions of Windows.  Then, they added those capabilities into future versions of their products.

By early 2001, in less than 2 years, we shut ListWeasel down.  Luckily, I was the only full time employee, but the people working for us either part time, or as contractors, lost a source of their income, just when the recession was deepening.  More importantly, we felt a loss from the time and creative energy we had invested.

For me, I ended up becoming a tech executive at a large bank and, 13 years later, launched my strategy consultancy.  In hindsight, I can say that the experience of founding ListWeasel.com was very valuable, and certainly not a waste.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Red Flags that You're Reading a Phishing Email



Recently, I have seen phishing emails purporting to come from Apple that completely copy its visuals and color scheme.  The email looked completely legitimate. 

There were 2 red flags, however:

1. Email address and url:  This is the big one.  If you look at the actual value of both the email address and url, you could see that the addresses were not from apple.com.  Instead, they were for some weirdly addressed page.  The lesson here is that, if you see an email you suspect might be phishing, don't click on the link text (for example: "click here").  Instead, right-click on the link, copy it, and paste it in a text editor or word processor.  Then, you can see the actual link.

2. On the landing page, in addition to account and password, it asked for the social security number.  Apple would never ask for this piece of information.


© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Guest Post: How to Grow Your Small Business By Satisfying Busy Customers




Photo via Unsplash

How to Grow Your Small Business
By Satisfying Busy Customers


Today’s consumers don’t have time to wait for websites to load or customer service agents to reply to their questions. After all, your customers are just as busy as you are! If your business isn’t set up to satisfy people in a hurry, you may have a hard time retaining customers or acquiring them in the first place. Here are a few simple tricks to please those busy shoppers.

Do Competitive Research


Any business can benefit from conducting a competitor analysis. A competitor analysis is a type of strategic research that involves collecting useful information about what your competitors are up to. When you’re looking to grow your small business, a competitor analysis can help you discover unique business opportunities. For example, you may discover specific audience groups that your competitor has yet to target with their marketing strategies.

A competitor analysis will also help you determine the weaknesses of your competitors. Many online retailers have trouble meeting the demands of their busy customers. This is an area where your smaller specialty store may be able to get ahead. For example, a competitor analysis may reveal that your competitors’ customers frequently complain about their poor customer service. If this is the case, you can advertise your business’s excellent customer service and response times to win some customers from your competition.

Redesign Your Website


In order to find success and please picky customers, your website needs to grow with your business. Perhaps your cookie-cutter website worked well at first, but it won’t be able to handle customer demands as your business expands. Consider hiring a professional web developer to optimize your site. According to Upwork, a good web designer will understand the basics (HTML, Javascript, etc.), communicate with you through the design process, and tailor your website to the platform you’re most comfortable using.

A professional web developer should know how to build a website that will please your audience. For example, your customers expect your web pages to load within seconds. In addition to a reliable web hosting service, proper coding will ensure fast page load speeds. On top of this, your customers need to be able to find what they’re looking for immediately. If your website navigation is complicated or your products are hard to find, your website visitors will simply leave and shop elsewhere. It’s also important that your checkout process is effortless and seamless. According to Sourcify, 28 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts when the checkout process is overly long or complicated.

Address Customer Inquiries Immediately


While a fast website is important, providing excellent customer service may be the best thing you can do to hold onto time-strapped shoppers. Customers don’t like to wait for replies from brands. In fact, Smart Insights revealed that over one-third of consumers expect a social media response within 30 minutes! When communicating with customers, be courteous and speak like a person. Use easy-to-understand terms so that your customers are clear on what you mean and aren’t forced to do their own research to solve their problem.

Good customer service will help you grow your business because satisfied customers are much more likely to recommend your products to others. Plus, happy customers are likely to buy from you again. Since it’s much cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one, keeping your customers happy is extremely valuable to your business.

We’re all busy. Show your customers that you value their time by catering to their needs. When it comes to growing your business, pursuing customer satisfaction may be the best business strategy of all!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

How to know whether your data is trustworthy

As a consultant, and former bank executive, I have been responsible for working on a lot of data modeling  initiatives, especially in the financial and trading areas.

A key way to test whether your data model is trustworthy is to randomly break your data up into several parts.  Use one part for developing/training your model.  Then use your model to evaluate one or more of the other parts of your data, and see if the results match statistically.

For example, if you wanted to develop a system for trading stocks, and you had data from 1990 - 2015, you might want to randomly divide it up into three parts of roughly 8 years each. 

Then, you would develop the system using the data in part 3.  Let's say that it returned 3% more than the market. You would then test your model with parts 1 and parts 2.  If the results are similar, then you would know that the data is trustworthy.

Another example might be x-ray data used to build an AI model to detect cancer.  You could randomly divide the x-rays into 4 groups. Then, train the model on one group.  Then, find out how many false positives and negatives you get.  Then you would test the models on the other 3 groups of X-rays.  If the number of false positives and negatives were similar, then you know that your data model is trustworthy.




© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Creating a Forward-Looking Privacy Policy

Privacy policies should be reviewed once a year, at the same time each year.  After each yearly review, it needs to be mandatory that it be shared with all employees, who must acknowledge (through a click) that they understand and will abide by the policy.  Preferably, the policies should be presented as a mandatory on-line course with a test all employees must pass.

The main way that the policy can be made forward-looking is by requiring that all information kept on customers can be segregated on an individual basis.  In other words, if future privacy laws by a particular government affect a certain subset of information (for example, specifically social security numbers) then it will be much easier for the company to implement if their forward-looking policy had made allowances that individual data segments can be selected for special handling.

© 2019 Praveen Puri 

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Banks Vs. Bitcoin

Banks don't have much to fear from bitcoin itself.  Bitcoin is more like gold than currency.  Most people who invest in it are either trying to trade it quickly to get rich, or to invest for the long term as a hedge against inflation.

Bitcoin isn't practical as a currency, because the value is too volatile.  If, for example, bitcoin was used to pay monthly expenses (such as groceries or rent), the price would fluctuate too much from month to month, since jobs aren't paid in bitcoin.

Also, since bitcoin is not regulated by any government, holders of bitcoin risk losing their money in the case of hacks, forgotten passkeys, or exchanges shutting down.  There was a case last year where bitcoin owners holding their money in a Canadian bitcoin exchange lost it all when the operator suddenly died, and his wife didn't know the password.

Meanwhile, bank deposits are guaranteed by the government, and banks offer interest, and services such as loans, credit cards, mortgages, checks, wires, etc.

Indirectly, however, new financial technologies (fintech) such as bitcoin threaten banks because, through competition and better technology (blockchain in the case of bitcoin), they threaten to reduce the fees that banks charge for handling money.

© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Monday, August 5, 2019

Lessons From Lake Michigan


Six years ago, Lake Michigan was at a historically low level, and people talked about a "new normal".

Now, the Lake is 6 feet higher, at record highs, and people are worried and upset because beaches and piers are missing and getting destroyed.

Some lessons:

1. Things in life and nature are cyclical. 

2. There's always someone complaining: too high or too low.

3. The scale of nature is awesome: The lake went up 6 feet.  To put it in perspective, to raise Lake Michigan by 1 inch takes about 780 billion gallons of water.

Friday, August 2, 2019

How To Hire A Project Manager

As both an IT executive and now as a strategy consultant, I have interviewed many project managers over the years. What stands out for me: 1. At least 3 years of project management experience. 2. I prefer project management experience at more than one company, because then they are exposed to multiple environments/practices. 3. Experience in a related area (such as development, product management, testing, or business analysis).

Future of Data Management: Clouds, But Not Necessarily Public Clouds

The future of data management systems is the cloud technology model, but not necessarily public clouds (Amazon, Microsoft, etc). While most data will be in public clouds, a lot of data (especially health and financial) will end up on private clouds set up by large private companies and consortiums. These private clouds will be designed just like public clouds, so that development groups in their organizations won't have access to their own servers. Instead, they will use these private clouds the same way developers access public clouds. This way, they have all the advantages of clouds (rapid application creation, just in time scaling, etc), but will still have complete control over their data.

© 2019 Praveen Puri


Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit PuriConsulting.com

Thursday, August 1, 2019