They Ain’t Nothing

Apple StoreMicrosoft store
So Microsoft has tried to do the copycat thing of the Apple Store. 



See Apple (top photo) streaming with customers trying out their world-class computers and smartphones yesterday. 



See Microsoft (photo underneath) just a few storefronts down in the mall with nice vibrant colors, but just a handful of customers (the non-red shirts) in the entire place.



BTW, I took a look at the iPhone 6 Plus and liked the size (I thought I wouldn’t) and ordered one (will be nice I hope to actually see the screen on this thing). 



At the same time, I tried the Microsoft Surface, and my wife says to me can you videotape me showing how long it takes to actually try to figure this thing out–piece of garbage!



It was also confusing why the Microsoft store was selling Dells and other companies computing devices–Ah, maybe because they don’t have anything competitive of their own???



Microsoft great try with the overall store (Touche!) but you just don’t have the retail products to compete with Apple–and the piles of Xbox in the rear of the store to draw people in–that wasn’t working either. 



Microsoft still a winner at enterprise computing, but Apple hands-down has you on personal computing–everyone to their corners. 😉



(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Lowest Price Guaranteed!

Chair and Lush Carpet
So I bought a really comfy chair–everyone wants one of these. 



(Note: Pictured here is not the actual chair or store from my story today.)



Anyway, I was so happy thinking about how lush the sitting experience would be. 



Yes, the “retail price” seemed high, but I got the “Veterans Day discount” and then bargained some more. 



So I thought I probably did okay on the negotiation, especially since I was dealing with a major national brand.



Also, the contract/invoice had in writing a “lowest price guarantee“–so that if within 30 days, I found the chair for cheaper, the company “would gladly refund the difference in full”!



Sounds good, right?



But something wasn’t feeling right and when I went home I had trouble sleeping–something seemed off with this purchase and this merchant. 



So in the morning, I checked online and found the exact same chair for almost $300 less!



Well, I headed straight to the store with a printout of the lower price I had found and promptly presented it to the store manager for the refund of the difference as promised.



But instead of the glad refund, I got stonewalled and the dumbest look on the store manager’s face I have ever seen. 



He started the million excuses why he wouldn’t refund the difference in price as promised. 



First he said, oh, the chair I found was a different color–I showed him the chair online and the one in his showroom, and they were the identical color and everything. 



Then, he goes for a second attempt, saying, uh the price guarantee doesn’t apply to prices found at outlets, and I said where does the price I found say outlet anywhere? He couldn’t find anything like that. 



So he tries a third time to get rid of me, and says, the merchandise has to be advertised under “the same terms and conditions,” and it wasn’t.  I said what terms and conditions weren’t the same?  He said, well, they just weren’t the same. 



At which point, he told me plain and simple that he wasn’t going to refund the difference and that I should get out of the store. 



I won’t tell you all the (legal) details how, but let’s just say this guy was sorry for trying to do that…and I walked out with the price difference refunded. 



Buyer beware–lot’s of crooks out there trying to take your money and giving guarantees that are complete b.s. 



This is probably especially the case with many brick and mortar retailers who are having serious problems competing with their significantly lower overhead online brethren. 



Beware–Beware–Beware!!! 



I learned again today and taught my daughter to stand up for what is rightfully yours and don’t let anyone take advantage of you!  



You work for your money too and no one should cheat you out of it. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Games Organizations Play

split
So HP, under Meg Whitman, is breaking up into a PC/printing
company and an enterprise products and services firm.

Um…well of course it’s the right thing to do to focus each and release the
great value of these two companies.
Only, just a few years ago, under Carly Fiorina, HP a
printer and enterprise products company combined with Compaq, a PC company, in
order to gain the size and clout to succeed in the ever-competitive technology
marketplace.
The B.S. of corporate America—everything and the opposite–to
try and do something, almost anything, to try and raise the share prices of those
strategically stalled companies.
From Meg Whitman, CEO of HP:
– October 2011–“Together we are stronger!”
– Then today, 3 years later–“Being nimble is the only path
to winning.”
Yeah, whatever.
Merge, split—wash, rinse, repeat…fool the fools.
HP is still HP—especially compared to Apple, Amazon, Google,
and even now Lenovo. 😉
 
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Angie Harms)

Technology Easy Sell

Benefits and Risks
Technology is not like buying a time share, thank G-d. 



We examine the costs and the benefits, and it either works and provides us a tangible competitive benefit or it doesn’t.



“You can’t be competitive without modern technology, you’ll simply be out of business.”



At the end of the day, you don’t want to be sold a worthless bag of goods from a no good (not genuine) salesperson. 



Read about it here in my new article in Public CIO. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

IT Departments, Here To Stay

IT Departments, Here To Stay

InformationWeek asks “Will IT Departments Disappear By 2020?”

This question comes from Forrester Research which sees the commoditization of IT as eroding the base for the traditional IT function and roles.

As we move to cloud computing–apps and infrastructure, as well as continue the trend for outsourcing IT such as help desk, desk support, and more what will be left for the CIO and his or her team to do?

The article answers this question with another major trend–that of consumerization–“differentiating value and visibility among consumers and employees.”

This is where IT can be highly strategic in serving those needs in the business that are truly unique and that enable them to be high performing and even outperform in the marketplace.

These ideas of commoditization and consumerization are anchored in Lawrence and Lorsch’s business studies of integration and differentiation of organizations, where organizations need to find their ideal state for integration of subsystems–such as through cloud computing, data center integration, and shared services–and for differentiation, where organizations differentiate themselves to address the unique value they bring to their customers.

So even with commoditization of IT and integration of services, the IT function in organizations will not be going away, no more so than HR or Finance functions went away with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.

The CIO and IT function will be able to leverage base enterprise services as commodities, but they will be expected more than ever to focus on and provide strategic solutions for their customers and give their organizations the real technology competitive advantage they are looking for and desperately need.

This is what distinguishes a real CIO–one that provides strategic leadership in being user-centric and coming up with customer-oriented solutions that are not available anyplace else–from those managers that only help to keep the IT lights on.

If you are not differentiating, you are not really engaging–so get out there with your customers and roll up your CIO sleeves. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

iRobot For Your Windows

A Chinese company, Ecovacs, has developed a robot that cleans your windows–and it looks quite like an iRobot that cleans your floors.

You spray the cleaning pad, attach it to your window, and it senses that boundaries of the window and calculates a path to clean them.

The spray pad wipes them, the squeegee collects dampness, and another wipes it dry.

There are multiple safety features including dual suction rings, a safety pod with a tether, and an alarm if Winbot runs into problems.

The spray pads once used can be removed, washed, and dried for another cleaning run.

I like Winbot as long as it is just cleaning windows and not also looking in the window and listening to what you are doing to gain competitive advantages in a cyberspace that these days, knows few, if any, security bounds. 😉

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

Tractors_on_the_train

This is a photo I took at Harpers Ferry.

There was a train coming by pretty fast, and on the flatbeds were what seemed like a endless line of Tractors.

— Red, red, red, red, blue, and then red again.

I hurried to get my iPhone out and capture this photo while the train was rushing by at full speed.

I love this shot, because it teaches an important lesson about diversity.

Firstly, it reminds me of the children’s song, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”

From early in life, we are taught to conform a certain way–based on norms, culture, values, policies, rules, regulations, laws, religion, and so on.

There always seems to be a reason that we have to talk, dress, think, and conduct ourselves–properly, politically-correct, and just like everyone else.

And we are warned that “the nail that sticks out, gets hammered down”–so don’t do it–it’s too risky–you’ll be labeled bad or worse yet, crazy.

So while creativity and innovation is valued if it can bring someone a nice profit, we are still cautioned not to go out too far on a limb or else you risk getting ridiculed and rejected–hey “you may never work again in this town.”

But in this picture, the tractors tell a different story–that it’s okay to be a blue tractor in a long parade of red ones.

No, the blue tractor wasn’t a mistake, it isn’t abnormal or alien or evil, it’s just different and it’s cool.

The blue tractor stands out, but it isn’t a bad thing to stand out–and the blue tractor won’t get hammered down.

It’s okay to be a blue tractor in a long procession of red tractors–and it’s great to just be who you are–blue, red, yellow, green, or whatever.

Conformity is not normalcy–it’s just look-alike, copycat, and probably even boring.

Being different can be novel, inventive, out-of-the-box and exciting–and more important it can usher in needed change.

I think we need more blue tractors in a red tractor world.

Will you take a chance and be a blue tractor too?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Innovation: Leaders vs. Liars

Innovation

There’s a big difference between doing something and saying you’re going to do something.

Or as I learned early on–words are cheap, but actions speak loud and clear.

The Wall Street Journal (23 May 2012) reported this week about how many companies (and even academic institutions) overuse the word innovation–“the introduction of something new.”

It’s practically become cliche–“chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies, and even innovation days.”

So is innovation just the buzzword du jour or is ultimately something more?

Of course, the more we use something like the term innovation, the greater the chance to dilute its meaning.

– “33,528–times [innovation] was mentioned in quarterly and annual reports last year.”

– “255–books published in the last 90 days with innovation in the title.”

– “43%–of 260 executives who said their company has a chief innovation officer.”

However, innovation is not just a word to throw around and use lightly–innovation is our bread and butter in this country; it is what differentiates us from our global competitors (i.e. its one of our main competitive advantages) and is a source of our economic strength.

Not all innovation is created equal–there is “innovation lite” (my term), where we take something and make it better, faster, or cheaper, and then there is “disruptive innovation”–where we really bring something new to the market.

“Everybody’s innovating because any change is innovation,” but not every innovation is transformative.

We can’t afford for innovation to lose its meaning, because leaders and companies that abuse it and dilute it–and don’t ultimately deliver–will end up losing their jobs and ultimately the companies themselves.

Real innovation is like condiments, use it sparingly and it can pack a huge punch–pour it on indiscriminately, and you might as well just throw away the whole dish.

What we need are innovation leaders that don’t just mouth the words and buy the toys, but champion it, invest in it, and empower and encourage their employees to make it happen.

Innovate or die is our reality–so be a true innovation leader–don’t lie to yourself if it isn’t the real thing. 😉

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Seth Waite)

Strategy, Blue and Red and Successful All Over

Blue_ocean
Recently, I was reading about something called “Blue Ocean Strategy.”
The notion is that in pursuing differentiation, an organization’s aim is “not to out-perform the competition in the exiting industry [and to fight it out turning the oceans blood red), but [rather] to create a new market space or a blue ocean, thereby making the competition irrelevant.”
While I like the ocean’s metaphor and agree with the need for organizations to innovate and create new products and services (“blue oceans”), I think that competition (“red oceans”) is not something that is inescapable, in any way.
In profitable industries or market spaces, competition will enter until supply and demand equilibrium are met, so that consumers are getting more or less, the optimal supply at the requisite demand. The result is that organizations will and must constantly fight for survival in a dynamic marketplace.
Moreover, as we know, any organization that rests on its past successes, is doomed to the trash heaps of history as John Champers, the CEO of Cisco stated: It’s “easy to say we’re the best…we don’t need to change, but that’s exactly how you disappear.”
In essence, while we may wish to avoid a duke-it-out, red ocean strategy, every successful innovative, differentiation-driven, blue ocean strategy will result in a subsequent red ocean strategy as competitors smell blood and hone in for the kill and their piece of flesh and cut of market share, revenue, and profit hide.
To me, it is naïve to think that blue ocean and red ocean strategies are distinct, because every blue ocean eventually turns blood red with competition, unless you are dealing with a monopoly or unfair competitive environment that favors one organization over any others.
The key to success and organizational longevity is for innovations to never cease.  When innovation dries up, it is the moment when the organization begins their drowning decent into the ocean’s abyss.
So as with the lifecycle of all organizations, blue ocean strategies will eventually result in red oceans strategies.  Once this occurs, either the organization will leverage their next blue ocean strategy or bleed red until their body drains itself out and dies off—leaving the superior organization’s blue ocean strategy to carry the day.
Together, blue oceans and red oceans—drive the next great innovation and healthy competition in our dynamic, flourishing market.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to freezingmariner)