Tag Archives: SWOT

Chook chook thinking

Why? Because train of thought reads too boring, thats why! So this all happened, or better stated started happening a few hours ago. Someone stated that IBM Z Mainframes are in 96% of all mainframe places. Now, I have no problem with this, I moved out of mainframes 30 years ago, and I still respect what these things can do (they are just too big for my desk). Yet in this, my first question was, what do the other 4% use? A simple question. I got all kinds of answers, yet none of them answered my question ‘What do the other 4% use, in this it does not matter if it is known, but it is essential to look at.

Why?
Well, in this IBM has a luxury problem, they basically own 96% of that market, but the 4% can become 8% then 16%, at that point the message from IBM becomes 4 out of 5 use our mainframe. When the 96% is 120,000 mainframes it is one thing, when it is based on 960 mainframes it is a whole different story. The numbers matter, that has always been the case (even if Microsoft is in denial now they are shedding market share). 

Reasons
There can be a simple reason. For one epidemiology, if it is about real time numbers, the market is slim, massively slim, compared to that market a size zero model is a mere chunky blobernaut. Cray is one of the few players in that setting and it makes sense that a Cray is there where an IBM is optionally not. Still, I would want to know.

You see, in strategic thinking we have two elements we ALWAYS need to keep one eye on. One is threat the other is weakness. In this example real-time data management is a weakness. Now we need to understand that this market is set to billions and those who desperately need it, that number is not an issue, yet for IBM investing that much for 4% is tactically not sound, not until that marketshare is a lot larger. That makes perfect sense and let’s face it no one owns 100% of a market, if that ever happens we will have a lot more problems than we could possibly understand. 

Why do I care?
Well, for the most I do not, but at present I am not to involved with any SWOT analyses, and the ones I did lately was done for wannabe managers who seemingly only understand bulletpoint memo’s. The idea of any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analyses that is related to business competition, project planning and capability planning is more important than most people realise. We see it in intelligence, business intelligence and market intelligence. And now we see two new real markets emerging where it is important too. Gaming and SAAS/GAAS. Even as GAAS is still some time away, the need to actively SWOT in all three is there and I believe the players are not too finicky about that and they need to be. As the cloud is oversold and the dangers are underestimated their board of directors need to hold up a mirror where they can tell themselves that it doesn’t matter, and when we understand how completely those people are lying to themselves, at that point you might get the idea that there is a problem. The SWOT has more sides, it tests your capability, your software (Strengths and opportunities) but that needs to be levelled by weaknesses and strength. 

800 years ago
To understand this we need to go back to the good old days (Ghengis Khan). It was he who stated “It is not enough for me to win, my opponents must all fail”. Yes, I admit it is a massively loose translation but it applies to the now. When we stumble over sales people and their unnatural large ego’s, we tend to listen because they make the loudest claims, yet are they valid? Consider Solarwinds and what they enabled criminals to do, when you consider the news last week when we were given ‘SolarWinds hackers stole US sanctions policy data, Microsoft confirms’, it was a weakness and a threat, so when we how long the hack was active and that we now see that policy data is online and open for anyone to look into, what other sides are not yet known? It is not enough for SAAS vendors to look at SWOT, their customers need to do the same thing. So when I considered the 4% is was not because I need to know everything (which at times is still nice as a high executive CIA decision maker has a girlfriend that has size 6 lingerie, his wife is size 11), so who needed to do the SWOT, someone at the CIA or me? One could say both as I am his threat and he is my opportunity. 

The stage of what is what could be remains forever in motion. 

So where from here?
That remains open. For players like Amazon, the enabling of GAAS becomes more and more important, especially when you see the blunders that players like Ubisoft makes, they need to be aware of where their customers are, especially when Netflix becomes active in gaming too. They will have an advantage, but Amazon can counter it, yet there are sides that remain unknown for now and they should not be (not on that level) and there is the rub. Too many rely on external solutions when that solution needs to be in-house. And we can disperse with all the marketing BS that some give like “We are a better company now”, when you drop the ball to that degree there was a massive space for improvement and you merely are on par for not being where you should have been a year ago. An old IBM Statistics wisdom was “You’ll know when you measure”. This sounds corny but it is true, you cannot anticipate and adjust when there is no data and in all this any SWOT analyses would have been usable data. So where was the 4%? I do not know and the poster seemingly did not know either. It might be fair enough, yet when that 4% becomes 8%, when should you have known? It is a question with a subjective answer. Yet in gaming it is less so, especially as I am becoming aware (unproven at present) that Microsoft has one nice trick up their sleeve. There is partial evidence out there that Skyrim will be on PS5 in digital formal only. Several shops now have a ‘DO NOT USE’ for any physical PS5 format of Skyrim. Now, there might be an easy answer for this after all these lockdowns, but it is only 4 weeks away now, so you tell me. Is Microsoft playing its ‘bully’ card? Are they trying to push people to Xbox? It is a fair approach, they did pay 8 billion and change for it, but consider that their actions are set to a larger stage. A stage of millions of angry fans. I solved it for them by creating public domain gaming ideas for any Sony exclusive RPG game. I am not Bethesda, I am a mere IP creator, but when software makers are given a free ride towards Sony exclusives and even if one game hits the mark, the Bethesda market share dwindles to a lower number. Now consider what happens when that happens on Amazon Luna too? I might be a mere 1% factor, but if another one joins me I grow 100% whilst Microsoft dwindles more. For Microsoft Amazon is becoming a real threat and a weakness, for Amazon Netflix is optionally a threat and a weakness whilst Google Stadia is optionally the opportunity for Amazon. 

All SWOT settings that could have been seen from afar from the beginning. It is not everyones train of thought, yet in this day and age, I think it needs to be, the markets and our lives are changing in all kinds of ways too quickly and too large, we need to think head and having a clear grasp on how to apply SWOT in our lives might become essential. 

The difference?
That is a much harder line to follow. It comes down to the word ‘Insight’ and it is a dangerous, a very dangerous word. Because depending on the person this can be Insight, speculated insight, expected insight, and adjusted insight and more than once they are all on one pile making the data less reliable. Insight is also subjective, we all see it differently and that does not mean that I am right and everyone else has a wrong station. No, it is all subjective and most CAN be correct, but as the insight is disturbed by speculated, adjusted and expected versions, the numbers alter slightly. And now we see that 4% was not 4%, is was 7% and 5%, 5% because there were other IBM mainframes in play (adjusted) and 4% was the speculated number and 7% was the expected number. Now we have a very different station, the expected moves us from 96% use our product, towards 9 out of 10 are our customers, which is now a mere step towards 4 out of 5 use IBM. So would you like to bring that conversation to any board of directors? 
They’ll serve your balls for dinner (see image). 

Still feel certain that you do not want to know? In reality most SWOT analyses are seemingly pointless and often amazingly boring, yet in this day and age they are an essential part of business and gaming at $130 billion a year is facing that side as well. So when you consider what I gave you also consider the impact that some shops have ‘DO NOT USE’ for Skyrim preorders, 4 weeks before release, lockdown or not, it beckons all kinds of questions. And to be fair, there could be a simple explanation for all of it, but that too is the consequence of trying to create hypes via YouTube without clearly informing the audience. It is a weakness Microsoft has shown a few times (Bethesda was never completely innocent, but equally never this guilty). 

So what has a game in common with a business setting? It is simple, they both need to manage expectations and that too is a side of SWOT, even as marketing often merely focusses on opportunity, there is a weakness and a threat. The lack of clarity and misinformation are both a weakness (angry customers) and a threat (churning customers) and in the world of gaming the churners are the real danger, they can get the flocking population of angry gamers to come with them and really make numbers spiral downward. In this day and age SWOT is an additional essential way to go, in nearly all walks of life. We simply can not avoid being that naive anymore, not with spiralling energy prices and more and more articles that can at present no longer be found in any supermarket, all whilst plenty of people are in a holding pattern for their incomes. 

It is a train of thought and it is up to you to decide if you want to do it or not, because that was always your right, the right to ignore, but it must be said that it will be at your own peril. 

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Space Quest 2.5

It is an interesting setting; the reference comes from one of Sierra-on-Line’s most famous games called Space Quest, in this game we see the hero going up against Vohaul and his evil plan: to eradicate sentient life by launching millions of cloned insurance salesmen at the planet!

That game came to mind the moment I was treated to ‘Grenfell-type cladding on London flats to be replaced at insurer’s cost‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/09/grenfell-type-cladding-on-london-flats-to-be-replaced-at-insurers-cost), in this we all might seem relieved, but the truth is hidden in the subtitle with ‘Decision over New Capital Quay could have repercussions for other apartment blocks’. This is the setting and it was never going to be a win-win situation for the house owners. We see the emotional part with “A second family, which has seen the value of its London flat slashed from £600,000 to just £90,000 because of the Grenfell-style cladding, was thrilled to learn they no longer faced the bill“, I am happy for that family, I truly am, even with the first example the Guardian gave. Yet the hidden trap is not invisible, it does not hold out in camouflage. The simplest question gets you there. How much effort have you gone through to get your insurance money? I have been through it twice in my lifetime and in the end it costed me more than the premiums ever did. When it comes to insurances (beyond third party insurance) you tend to never ever win, or break even.

You see, getting an insurance firm to part with money is a bit of an issue. So when I see that they are footing the bill, all kinds of red flags went up. In Victoria (Australia) we saw in 2015 “Victorian Building Association (VBA) conducted an audit of 170 building permits following an Melbourne apartment fire that climbed 13 floors in November 2014, causing $2 million in damages, due to combustible wall cladding used in construction“, and until you get the headline ‘cladding hazard may nullify claims‘, you might not get the essential one. This is not any different in the UK. In addition there is (from another source) “However, a good number of policies stipulate that if you’ve told your insurer you have fire alarms, they must work. If an insurer finds that a home’s fire detectors weren’t functioning correctly at the time of a fire, they might reduce the claim pay out, or even turn it down altogether“, as well as “Did we have working fire alarms? Did we have a fire blanket in the kitchen and extinguishers in the house? Was there an up-to-date electrical inspection report? Luckily, we complied, but similar issues apply to almost any policy“. Now consider these parts with the Grenfell like issues seen in: “The Guardian has learned that another deficiency notice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was issued on 25 January in relation to all 11 blocks in the complex. It identified 16 fire safety issues, including a lack of arrangements to evacuate vulnerable and elderly residents, an ineffective maintenance regime, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks. It found that “the procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate”, raising residents’ fears about being trapped in the event of a fire“, which is given to us (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/15/further-defects-discovered-at-housing-with-grenfell-style-cladding).

So in these cases, we have an insurance problem, the building is not up to specs, and any fire voids the insurance, in most cases the home insurance is also affected, yet the insurers are covering it all this time. This is not merely the Grenfell setting, all the buildings are covered. Yet what we are likely to see is that this is a quick return on investment from the insurers. You see, there is every chance that the premiums will go up between £120 and £360 a year next year onwards. Now consider that this is not merely handed to those buildings fixed, it will most likely be an overall premium increase of 1%-1.5% for every building in London, which will give the insurance companies an expected £12m-£36m per year for the next 5 years at least. So the quote “Residents, who were facing a share of a bill estimated at between £25m and £40m for cladding and millions more for round-the-clock fire wardens, were elated with the news” gives us that the insurers will take an optional short term hit with the turning point in year 2 and large profits after that. It seems like a nice business deal for them, and in light of the avoided costs most will not blink at being happy, even when the new bills arrive.

Part of that danger is seen in things like “Common buildings insurance exclusions may include: Damage from general wear and tear & wilful neglect of the property“. That part matters, because the failing fire doors, non-working water pipes for firefighting as well as other elements. Now add the quote from the Conversation (at http://theconversation.com/yes-the-grenfell-tower-fire-is-political-its-a-failure-of-many-governments-79599), which was: “Worse, it has been reported that the London Fire Authority actually wrote to all boroughs as recently as April, advising them of their concerns on the use of some kinds of cladding panels. A number of expert reports have argued in favour of revising the building regulations, notably following the inquiry into the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark in which six people died. The fact that the Lakanal House fire was eight years ago and building regulations have still not been updated demonstrates a complete failure to learn the lessons from previous disasters and take speedy corrective action“. We now see a clear path to both ‘Damage from general wear and tear‘, the fire doors and ‘Wilful neglect of the property‘ optionally the fire doors, the writing of the Local Fire Authority and the non-actions on the cladding. In these cases as well as most other buildings the insurance companies can basically walk away, leaving the tenants with a nightmare scenario. They did not and there is decades of evidence that insurance companies are in a black letter law cold environment in the heat of pretty much every fire. So this is about more than merely ‘a helping hand‘. This is about the SWOT where their position was in strength; the building cooperation as well as the local government were in a place of Weakness, the Opportunity is a nice premium rise giving them many millions a year more, with one year as optional collateral loss and the Threat is close to none, optionally the initial builders will get billed to some extend as well, making the optional losses for the insurance companies even lower than initially penciled in.

For this and the previous government it is a quick fix as well as a nice setting where everyone walks away without an invoice, the only thing that this government has to agree to is the coming premium rise and as the amount seems small, they will not oppose it, the one thing that bites is that all home owners will be likely to get that increase, cladding or not. And as we get bad news management through optimistic news, we see messages like “Flood Re confirmed that the announcement comes on the back of its decision not to pass on the annual increase to premium thresholds in April“, yet later this year we will with a decent measure of ‘most likely’ get news like: ‘The added risks as well as the additional costs of upgrading the buildings that have Grenfell like cladding have forced us to add a short term increase to all premiums, so that there will be no dangers to those currently in hazardous setting of coverage against fire’, yet I personally feel certain that all those not in those buildings, where the rule “Common buildings insurance exclusions may include: Wilful neglect of the property“. Those people will still take a hit on their claim if they have one.

I admit that a lot of it is based on personal experience (not fire based though) and in light of thousands of complaints in the past, my vision in what is likely to happen, might be correct and even conservative in the projected changes. Even as I am willing to grant the response that we see with: “Then we arrive and we are the big bad wolf, because the claim is not covered“, I personally see this as the people expect a spirit of the insurance setting whilst insurance firms see only a ‘black letter insurance policy setting‘. It is a view that the legal minds understand, but that might be the only group that does. It is an idiomatic antithesis that tends to settle in the world of laws (especially taxation laws). It is important to understand that I used to see the insurance companies as ‘white collar criminals’, but not anymore. I think that this is a deeper issue that we are all mostly ignorant to. It is almost a given that spirit of law and letter of law should be taught in secondary school. It is an important skill for anyone to have by the time they get their first house and get the insurances they need. It is an important view as this one setting in London giving us the realisation that the insurance companies are embracing the spirit of the insurance, not the letter of it; yet I personally believe that this is done to create a windfall that gives these companies millions down the track for a very long time to come. We can argue that they offer a cheaper solution for those who are faces with many thousands of pounds in cladding costs, yet others will not feel the same. I was not alone in this path, Reuters gave us last October “While they cannot change existing insurance cover, renewals, many of which fall due in Jan or April 2018, will give them a chance to adjust prices or policy wordings to mitigate their risks“, and so they already had something. The question becomes, what is the cost of mitigating risk? The people will find out when they get their news premium invoice in 2019. Then we can see just how conservative my numbers were. I do expect to see the changes being released earlier that year as it will be an option for insurance companies to poach new customers from those giving voice to higher than expected premiums.

So even as we were given “AXA had upgraded its administration so that information on the number of tall buildings it insures or the type of cladding they are using is more easily available, helping to identify risks quickly“, as well as “Zurich Municipal would work with customers “to help them manage these exposures”“, the question is what exposure?

Is that exposure to the expected risk, or to the risk of getting exposed to upgraded premiums?

 

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A bit in the stream

Something alerted me towards events this morning in LinkedIn of all places. There was a reference towards an article titled ‘New Accenture boss Bob Easton throws down gauntlet to big four on digital’ (at http://www.afr.com/business/accounting/new-accenture-boss-bob-easton-lays-down-gauntlet-to-big-four-on-digital-20160829-gr3huj ).

The initial quote is “The trouble is there is a lot of people running around talking about digital“, which is true. Bob Easton is right that there is a lot of talk about digital. Yet, when we look at the definitions, I wonder how many have a true grasp of digital. Even I myself wonder when the use ‘digital’ is warranted. You see, when it is media, my photography is digital, so is my filming. Advertisement is digital as it goes through AdWords and not trough the newspapers. Here is the issue. When is something digital? Bob Easton states in the article “they are confusing the market by misunderstanding digital strategy and lacking the global capabilities of his firm“, the fact that IBM took a massive hit is not a surprise because they are confused on the best of times. They still present the 14 managers and 2 technicians approach. I cannot speak for either PricewaterhouseCoopers in this instance, or for EY, but my last encounter with Deloitte gave a much better view on them and they seem to know it (to some extent). So where does this leave Accenture?

The term “moving to aggressively compete for work in the consulting, digital and business transformation space” is only a concern if they do not meet customers’ expectations. So where should they be?

So where should you be? You see Dave Aron from Gartner (at that time) gives me: “A digital strategy is a form of strategic management and a business answer or response to a digital question, often best addressed as part of an overall business strategy“, what I liked was “Every business and public sector agency needs both an IT Strategy and a Digital Business Strategy. They must be highly aligned with each other, but they are not the same thing“, which gives part of the goods, yet when we consider his claim “All aspects of the business strategy should be informed by digital considerations“, we tend to get confused here, because different elements have the same word (read: digital), but in that the setting is not the same.

We can see it as advancements in digital technologies such as computers, data, telecommunications and Internet, which is still true, but how to go about it?

A digital media manager looks at how to get the solutions towards their ROI, which in many turns means to get it all electronically solved, whilst keeping costs to a minimum. Here we see the first failing from IBM as they are about revenue and about getting the business onto their solutions. Even in a step by step solution it is about getting one foot into the door and upsell from there. That is not a solution for the client, it is merely a solution for the sales person’s target.

And in some cases there is no digital path, but to a lot of people that does not exist so they will feign a solution. As an example I have my old dentist, he had a card system so perfect that no IT solution could bring the goods. I saw yuppies in all sizes try to sell him a solution between 1983 and 1995, one failure after another. The mere realisation that not all solutions fit and that some solutions will drive down the ROI in unacceptable ways is why several of these players will never succeed. Because what the client truly needs is never addressed. If we take the approach from Macala Wright (at http://mashable.com/2012/09/05/how-to-digital-strategy/#oc3qMBqfF8qC)

We see a decently clear path. I can quote all the steps again, but the article has them down to a nice clean size, so reading it is a recommendation.

I am downgrading it to these four steps for comfort (read: mine).

  1. Identifying the opportunities and challenges in a business where online assets can provide a solution or a difference.
  2. Identifying the unmet needs and goals of the external stakeholders that most closely align with those key business opportunities and challenges, and especially if there are threats there.
  3. Developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfil those business and external stakeholder needs, goals, opportunities, challenges and threats.
  4. Prioritizing a set of online initiatives which can deliver on this vision.

These steps also include the views Cisco had in step 3, yet it is a watered down list. I am emphasising this as the entire ‘going digital’ is larger and more complex than most realise. When I look at what can be done and what can be achieved we need to realise that this all needs the decision makers to be aligned and in that both IT and business needs must be addressed. Most people going digital seem that it is a cheaper solution towards a better ROI. Yes, it is a path towards a better ROI, which will not make it cheaper. It requires serious investments and not tinkering around with half a dozen people working from home, sending in some finished element. Whilst the Australian Financial Review gives us a chart with Revenue versus margin and adds a little hype by adding AirBnB and Uber in the new business models, we see a forgotten element. You see, these new business models come with a little hook, one was highlighted by Bell Partners, where we see “Some critics argue that Uber drivers are not subject to the same premiums for compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance as taxis, as it is harder to identify an Uber car in an accident“. Is that so? So how does this impact the passenger? Until you are in an accident you might not care, but when the hospital bills come and the Uber player does not have the coverage, you will soon learn that hospitals are very expensive.

There is a lot of truth in the article and it is well worth reading, yet the lack of threats discussed is equally unsettling. The fact that Expenses in the digital world are up and very much so with Accenture is an element, and also a threat. You see, we all understand that there are a lot more expenses coming over (nearly all tax deductable), the matter of a shifting ROI remains and until the model is used to fuel growth the benefit will not be easily seen. For this path requires a globalising mindset. If you want to remain the big cheese in Darlinghurst and that is all you want, you need to consider what sides need the digital approach and what you want to grow. This for the mere reason that costs will come in the early days and if you are ready it is not an issue, if not, your ROI went straight into the basement, good luck enjoying that view!

Depending on your market, it will be about your customers and their experience, if that is not upgraded, then why byte into the digital apple? I truly worry about the bit you do not end up with, as you would limit your position and enable your competitor overnight. This is the part that is not addressed in many places, because everyone is in a sales hat thinking bonus and saying, we can get you onto the digital path! You see, the presentation in the AFR, regarding the digital disruption framework is aptly drawn as a spear point and it points towards you! The better the comprehension and implementation, the more it becomes a weapon of offense instead of a solution to suicide. In that regard, towards the offense we see that the spear could be the stepping stone that upgrades the customer experience and as such truly grow your business, which is exactly what it is, but it is not a cheap solution or an overnight solution, it is merely a new solution to grow towards places you never grew before, so you grow the options in getting a grown customer base, which is what many want.

The only question is how correctly the path has been drawn out and here we see the elements that Bob Easton sells on. Accenture seems to know this path through and through. We have seen how IBM scuttled their knowledge and for the most, the other players (read: self-proclaimed players) are not up to scrap, but their level of failure is not clearly shown, Bob Easton points at it, but there is clear doubt if that is a given, especially in the case of Deloitte.

Finally we see the mention of government contracts, which is of course fun to read. Especially as 20 years have shown me that the bulk of government is relatively clueless on any digital path, with Defence on a whole being close to the sole exception.

In all this I find one part slightly debatable, even as the chart makes perfect sense. The quote “Digitising the experience for your customers, digitising your internal operations and the creation of the capabilities to recognise and exploit new business models” is true, yet recognising new business models is always a non-given, because that requires the altered mindset of a board of directors, which tends to focus on the golf game and less on the balls they slice, which gives weight to the debate, not the issue with the model as shown. In that for Taxi’s the model makes perfect sense, because Uber is now forcing a different mindset on the taxi corporations. Yet consider the year before Uber started, how many Taxi companies were actively looking into new business models? That list is hugely close to zero!

I say that competitors and threats, the second more than the first is driving that element, which is why even in the digital move, a SWOT analyses tends to have more decisive impact on the decisions. When we know the elements strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we can start to look at the options we have, and they do include the two Bob Easton axis scales namely Revenue and Margin. As stated, his view is not incorrect, I personally find it a little incomplete in this instance.

And to finalise this, the problem he states is on many levels, I am not even sure if America is the largest waster of options and resources here, yet when we see politicians go with (read: Donald Trump on CBS today) “you know cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word. And now the cyber is so big“, in this case Donald Trump for his elections. The fact that Cyber threats have been on the FBI agenda even before October 6th 1999, stating that the damage from those threats had surpassed 7 billion in Q1 and Q2 of 1999 gives us worry that Cyber and Digital are more than words and those who are aiming to be in a seat of power have not grasped it. The entire educational system is not ready for these changes, which is not their fault. The market that Bob Easton described has grown nearly exponentially and the next generation is not aware of what is what, that whilst the current generation is not up to scrap as to what the definitions are, how they should be seen and how they apply in a real time environment and the people in charge are not getting educated either, most they get is from trade shows dying for you to buy their solution, which is not much of an education and finally the previous generation that is hoping to make it to retirement before they have to learn it all.

That is the issue as it evolves. So we are all bits in the stream, bits of what? I am not sure if anyone can tell at present, but good luck trying to figure out where you are placed and where you stand, because resolving that will place you in a much stronger position than you were in this morning.

 

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