Thursday, June 23, 2011

What we are against

In a blog posted at Harvard Business Review blog titled What is Your Brand Against? Scott Goodson explains that companies normally focus on defining their brands based on what they stand for. Although it is a suitable approach, he notes that branding following this strategy “starts to sounds like generic ad-speak”, as though trying to sell an ideology which everybody agrees on rather than making a stand against something and fighting for what the company believes in.

Goodson goes on to explain that marketers should not be reluctant to take a stand against anything fearing that it will place the company at a controversial or divisive position, since many companies have achieve success by doing so; such as Apple and Diesel. Identifying these concerns or issues, and branding your company against them, will ally your company with everyone else who faces them as well. This will create a bind that could turn prospects to customers, and increase loyalty within your existing ones.

Goodson warns not to be blinded by hatred toward your competition: “You may hate your competitor's guts, but nobody else cares; the outside world is looking for you to take on something more meaningful and interesting.” Also, don’t create an issue, whatever your company is against, it should be real; it should be an issue that truly affects your potential customers and that your company is really committed to eliminate. I may also add that it should not be something subtle or insignificant, it should be major and worth fighting for.

After reading the blog, I took a few minutes and analyzed what Goodson was communicating, and applied it to our company, how we are branding our services based on what we believe in, we strive for, and what we want to achieve, and tried to determine our issue, monster if you will, that we want to slay. It quickly dawned on me.

First let’s take a look at what our slogan is; “A straightforward path to success”. Straightforward is a very powerful word, and we picked it because it truly defines how our services must be provided: direct, honest, uncomplicated, simple, without ambiguity or pretence. We’ve noticed that the secret to a successful technology solution, besides the obvious finishing on time and in budget, the true success lies within the ease of adoption; how easily the solution is ingrained within the operations of the end-user. The more the solution simplifies the work of the end-user and the easier it is for them to adopt, the lesser the operation is impacted, and the quicker the company will see their return on investment. When I mention end-user, I’m not only referring to users of the solution, but also I’m referencing the personnel who will administer the system, who will carry out operational tasks such as monitoring, backups, debugging, updates, and so forth.

To achieve ease of adoption, every step of the solution providing process, from design to the implementation, must be reduced of unnecessary complexities, focusing solely on what needs to be solved and designing it toward a successful implementation. Solution are sometimes conceived in a simple manner, but along the way they are influenced by unnecessary factors that results in injecting complexities in executing the solution eroding budget and time, or affecting overall implementation and purpose. Thus, when delivering services, unnecessary complexity is the “monster” that we slay.

What are we against? Unnecessary complexities. Some of the unnecessary complexities are:

  • Unnecessary features – Trying to provide vast amount of features (that add little to no value to the solution) to impress the customer at a design phase. These features seldom add a meaningful value, they only add complexity at the delivery process and challenge the budget and time constraint. Not to mention, that at implementation time, these may add complexity to the end user, reducing the adoption rate.
  • Trying to solve all problems – More often that not, a solution is needed for a specific reason, and a defined budget and time constraint are already expected to address it. Let’s keep it like that; we don’t need to solve everything at once.
  • Choosing the wrong tool – Like in most professions, the right tool makes all the difference. So let’s avoid complexity by using the incorrect one, for whatever reason. Choosing the right tool may be the difference of the general success of the project due to the capability to achieve what it’s expected, the customizability to the company’s special need, the personnel expertise accessibility, and much more.
  • Reinventing the wheel – We are at the information age, most of what we do, others have already done it and shared it. In some cases, good practices have been identified and standards have been developed. If we can benefit from this, then why add unnecessary complexity by “reinventing the wheel”. We evaluate industries, examine technologies, study trends and good practices, ally with industry leaders, and test and educate our personnel so that we can be ready to tackle a broad range of technology services for businesses.

An added benefit to reducing unnecessary complexities is risk reduction. Risk is a time bomb that can destroy a solution at any stage, or can be the reason for exceeding budget or delivery timeframe. Risk can present itself anywhere; inadequate products (software or hardware), unprepared personnel, feasibility of features versus cost and time constraints, and plenty more. There will always be risks associated to providing solutions, but by reducing unnecessary complexities we significantly reduces overall risks.

Please feel free to share you comments, and tell us of any other unnecessary complexity that you may have encountered or identified.