Altabel Group's Blog

Archive for June 2010

No surprise that ideas change with the time. The same is happening to Lean Startup concept in IT.

In the times of first Agile Manifesto we have valued:

-         Individuals and interactions OVER processes and tools,

-          Working software OVER comprehensive documentation,

-          Customer collaboration OVER contract negotiation,

-          Responding to change OVER following a plan.

Now that’s not enough. Look, this is a new concept for operating in today’s environment:

-          Team vision and discipline OVER individuals and interactions,

-          Validated learning OVER working software,

-          Customer discovery OVER customer collaboration,

-          Initiating change OVER responding to change.

Do you already adhere to these new principles?

Will be interesting to hear your experience here.

Helen Boyarchuk
Altabel Group – professional software development

Product development in high-tech world is pretty difficult to manage. Often out of budget, behind schedule and draining cash reserves. Then when customers finally have the product in their hands it turns out to be unusable and buggy, or in case of a specified product – simply there is no willing-to-purchase customer group. So, the huge amount of energy, passion, creativity, time and funds result in no value.

If you want to be successful then do not try to “predict the future” based on the common myths and avoid thinking like “the time was paralyzed right before a launch of your first/next product version”. Guide yourself with facts and proper knowledge, not with opinions.

In this respect top three lessons to entrepreneurs sound like:

Firstly, know how you measure progress. In entrepreneurship, learning is progress. Yeah, the unit of progress is that of validated learning about its customers.

Secondly, the speed at which you make decisions is more important than if the decision is the right one. Many are afraid of failure, but failure is the prerequisite to learning. Each iteration must lead to a “pivot” when the company systematically changes some part of the vision to adapt to reality.

Thirdly, work in the smallest batch sizes, try out your ideas within a fraction of the customers because the faster you release, the faster you’ll get feedback.

Based on these “lessons” you may crystallize out the concept of Lean Startup. From my point of view the word “startup” here refers not narrowly to a new company but to any new idea or product.

So, “Lean” is the most capital-efficient way to run a business. Definitely. It is the never-ending process of finding every activity that does not create value for the customer and eliminating it.

The two biggest wastes are overproduction (making things the customer doesn’t want) and inventory (making things that aren’t used immediately).

Thus, start the ball rolling with a “minimally viable product”. The MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features needed to learn what the market wants. The key idea is to spend as little energy is possible figuring out whether what you’re creating is something people want.

Look at what happens after you’ve built the minimally viable product for your market. Then keep adding features based on validated learning results, therefore, working towards the “Maximally Buyable Product” step-by-step.

The MBP has the set of features needed to capture the maximum potential opportunity in a market.  These are the features that make it easy for people to Understand, to Try, to Buy, to Stay, to Leave. Well, at first glance each of the above does not look like product features but seems to refer to marketing and sales mostly. Really, these aspects of the product are not the features that customers are directly paying for, still they are part of the product. It’s a mistake to think of them as being part of finance/ accounting/ operations/ sales/ marketing/ whatever.

Recently the idea of the Lean Startup has become quite popular and with this very misinterpreted. To make your understanding of the Lean startup concept complete please have a look at top five myths about the Lean Startup and the truth behind each misconception:

“Myth: Lean means cheap. Lean startups try to spend as little money as possible.

Truth: The Lean Startup method is not about cost, it is about speed. Lean Startups waste less money, because they use a disciplined approach: rapid hypothesis testing of new products and ideas, validated learning about customers, and a disciplined approach to product development.

Myth: The Lean Startup methodology is only for Web 2.0/internet/consumer software companies.

Truth: The Lean Startup methodology applies to all companies that face uncertainty about what customers will want. This is true regardless of industry or even scale of company.

Myth: Lean Startups are small bootstrapped startups.

Truth: The core thought is actually product/market fit. Or how you do more with less money. But “It’s not about how much money you spend, it’s what you spend your money on and when”. There’s nothing wrong with raising venture capital. Many lean startups are ambitious and are able to deploy large amounts of capital. What differentiates them is their disciplined approach to determining when to spend money: after the fundamental elements of the business model have been empirically validated.

Myth: Lean Startups replace vision with data or customer feedback.

Truth: Lean Startups are driven by a strict vision, and they are rigorous about testing each element of this vision against reality. They use customer development, split-testing, and actionable analytics as vehicles for learning about how to make their vision successful. But they do not blindly do what customers tell them, nor do they mechanically attempt to optimize numbers. Along the way, they pivot away from the elements of the vision that are delusional and double-down on the elements that show promise.”

So, if you have a new idea then try to transform it into a real successful product using this agile approach to business. Instead of building a product over months and jamming multiple features into it, it is advocated to continually deploy new product to test and check if customers actually want a particular feature. That enables you to more promptly decide if the feature is a waste of time, and if so to move on.

*Based on “Lessons Learned” by Eric Ries.

Your opinions are welcome.

Helen Boyarchuk
Altabel Group – professional software development

Today there are hundreds of social networking sites (Friendster, imeem, Flickr, Myspace, Plaxo, Xanga, the list goes on) that are connecting people with different background, interests, hobbies and professions around the world.

The three major sites that are in the forefront are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  What, you may ask, is the difference between the three?  Which one will be the most beneficial for business?  Depending on you or your company’s goals and objectives, you will hopefully have a clearer perspective of which service best fits your business.

Bellow you may find a sort of an overview of the basic differences between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Sean Patrick
Sales Trainer & Sales Mentor at Sean Patrick,
Sales Director at Global VIsual Solutions Ltd:

“Facebook is good for brand awareness and building, twitter is a micro blog and can be hard to target your niche and linkedin does a lot more than both facebook and twitter and is taken a lot more seriously.”

Josh Chandler
Virtual Assistant for Business Professionals:

“It all depends what you mean by business purposes. Do you mean you want to use a social network to increase revenues, increase subscriptions to an email newsletter etc. In my opinion, each serves different benefits for businesses. Twitter for instance is uniquely positioned as being a popular real-time social network. This means that if you want to promote a product on a limited time period, it would be more suitable to use Twitter to reach an audience quickly.
Facebook on the other hand is more so about the brand awareness. Therefore it would be better suited towards long-term gains in website traffic, RSS subscribers and email newsletter subscriptions. LinkedIn is definitely more suited for connecting business professionals together who may wish to do joint ventures. Again, each network really will only work when you’ve distinguished and set goals on what you want to achieve for your business.”

Robert Burns, II
Public Relations & Social Media Specialist ♦ Writing Specialist:

“A large part of social media effectiveness, especially for business purposes, depends on where your AUDIENCE is. The answer to your question can and will vary drastically, based on the product or service each business offers, their current clientele, potential clientele, and short/long-term goals. I do not believe there is a best; it simply depends. A strong social media strategy will efficiently and effectively make use of more than one (but not too many; two or three is plenty) social media platforms, cross-linking between them and keeping a consistent brand for all of them.

FACEBOOK: It’s hard to argue with 400+ million regular users. Right now, they’ve got the numbers, and their users are engaged. I recommend every professional have a FB.

TWITTER: Growing fast, more useful if you can consistently post new, relevant content, ask relevant questions, and engage Tweeters. Good as well.

LINKEDIN: This platform captures the professional demographic that is not quite seen in such force on Twitter or Facebook. Both of those sites have them, but this site is DEDICATED to it, and there are a lot less frivolous status comments about “what people had for breakfast” and what have you.

As you can see, there are upsides (and downsides) to each one. It all depends on your business, audience, and ultimate purpose.”

Peter B. Giblett CITP, LLB
Business Strategist-Speaker-Author (Social Media & IT):

“All have their advantages and disadvantages. Starting with LinkedIn it is not possible to use it to build a corporate brand – all interaction has to be personal and promotional activity is not allowed. Any contribution made would have to be purely personal, although there is nothing stopping a person from using clever wording in a forum such as Answers to build brand awareness. Twitter possibly offers the best business capability. It is possible to have an account in the name of the business, and to promote your brand directly. However too much of this and you are likely to lose credibility and followers. With Facebook it is possible to build a business fan page which can act as a centre of attention for people interested in the brand and its activities. In all cases it is best to focus on the needs of your followers in building the brand image – e.g. become the industry expert rather than purely promoting your own products. Social media is a place to demonstrate expertise rather than to advertise.”

Emmajane Taylor-Moran
Employment Solicitor at Webster Dixon LLP:

“LinkedIn is my preference for business use. Facebook is too social (my teenage daughter is addicted to it, and I think it is really aimed at that market, not for professionals). Twitter – well I just don’t have time to narrate my life, and nobody would be that interested in it anyway!”

What do you think? What concerns do you have about which social networks to join?

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
http://www.altabel.com

Cloud computing is all the rage. The problem is that everyone seems to have a different definition ;)

Further to discussion of this topic I’d like to quote some interesting opinions of LinkedIn members who left their comments to the question in the title of this post.

“It’s a major trend but not a transformation, because a fundamental flaw in how IT is managed has not been addressed. We are still relying on IT teams to interpret and act on an ever-expanding, real time flood of data, and expect them to make the “right” decisions about how to plan, build, and operate the environment.

Cloud computing will bring this problem to the forefront because these decisions will need to be made both accurately  and  in real time in order to meet the expected service levels of an always on, always available cloud.

Managing these environments based on static rules, thresholds, and constraints (like IT has been managed for the last 20 years) will not work because of their dynamic nature. Unless we want to have huge clouds that are massively over provisioned to work around it – which would defeat the whole purpose (and kill the margins of the cloud providers) :)”

John Gannon
Product Marketing and Business Development at VMTurbo

“Cloud computing is another example of the pendulum effect of technology. From as far back as the 50’s and 60’s with the advent of Mainframe computing, the end user would have nothing more than a dumb terminal at their desk and everything, from storage to processing, was done on the centralized Mainframe.

Then, industry experts thought it would make more sense to have the computing power be more distributed, more in the hands of the user, and the personal computer revolution began.

Now, more and more, products such as netbooks/net-tops and ultra mobile devices like the iPad and others are starting to bear more resemblance to the “dumb terminals” of old than their PC predecessors. Sporting features like minimal processing power and memory, they become increasingly reliant on “cloud” services for basic functions and applications that used to be hosted locally.

Moving further into the future, as network speeds increase and latency becomes less of an issue, I can see more of these ultra cheap, ultra portable devices becoming popular with the general public.”

Matthew Reiner
Technology Analyst

“In my view, cloud computing is just a new name for something that has been around a long time. Anyone that has a Hotmail or Gmail or Yahoo email account is already using cloud computing. The same goes for Amazon and eBay. At the core, cloud computing is just storing your data on a remote server rather than you own computer. What has changed is that now entire applications, such as Salesforce, can be run in the cloud. The biggest challenge I see for cloud computing is data security. Someone once asked Willie Horton why he robbed banks and his reply was “that’s where the money is”. So I’m sure that the cyber thieves will be targeting data centers because…that’s where the data is”

Steve Walker
Senior PeopleSoft Consultant at CedarCrestone

“I think Cloud computing must be taken under consideration for SMB, ehre the cost and leverage of holding an DataCenter is out of scope, for large enterprises, software and hardware providers are releasing ways of Upgrading infrastructure lowering cost and offering benefits like redundancy and Private Cloud making a robust platform. The Security issues are a concern and must not be taken for granted, I also comply with preveous answer where stated that Cloud services have been around for a long time but recently due to the continues strive to offer innovative ways of improvements make it up to the top… we will see how it goes…”

Oswaldo Bello
Information Security Assistant Manager

“At IMS many of our customers are realizing the value of the cloud. Simply put; reduced cost for server infrastructure allowing the company to focus on their core competencies. It is not for every application or every company, but if you manage a P&L in an IT department it’s worth a look. As for security, there are many ways to achieve this and I would caution against looking at the cloud as one simplistic giant leap at once.

Consider the fact that there are private clouds that offer you the ability to have the same security you’d pay for in any datacenter. After all clouds are run from data centers right?

If you need more convincing take a look at how much the government is spending by 2013. It’s definitely in the 10s of billions. That makes it real!”

James Williams
Technology Entrepreneur

And what are your thoughts on this topic? You’re welcome to leave your comments.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
http://www.altabel.com

Lots of people say they are eager to do a startup, but few people really do. You’re giving up security for a chance to lose a lot of money, your own or borrowed, and that can be humbling and scary.

However hard you think launching a startup is, it can be way tougher than that – times 10.

The managing director of Altabel Group, a company which mainly works with startups, is running his own Linkedin group “IT start ups – innovate together” and definitely has some thoughts to share on this topic:

1. When you leave a position in a big and stable company to create your own startup, many people including former coworkers and family, will think you’re slightly unhinged. But if you never tried to do a startup company than most likely you have never tried to realize potential in full.

2. Hiring the right people is critical and sometimes the people you most need to convince aren’t the ones you’re actually going to hire. Startup is all about people on the team, and overall idea behind it.

3. The most valuable hires can come up from anywhere and their CVs at first may even raise doubts. Generally start ups do not have HR department, which too often screens out people without the “right” background. You should be anxious for getting best from each member of startup and seek for candidates you could get the most from.

4. You’ll need to be flexible however and whenever possible. You should be flexible while brushing up your idea for startup, and be ready to adjust your idea according to the circumstances.

5. When running a start up you are likely to have both moments of triumph and moments of despair. And they come and go so fast, and only your team mates may understand the feeling appearing at that. You should be ready to survive hard times and keep your operational expenses as low as possible even during good times – just to be ready and have reserves for hard times.

6. You’ll need to gain respect at all times and finally some of the toughest critics will become your own peers. You should build up self-confidence and confidence around you so that you and your team could think freely and be creative in all aspects of startup development.

7. Just when you think you’re on the rocket ride up, it can all come crashing down, and you’ve to work hard and fast and think on your feet to force it back up again.
You should not be over-confident when working toward certain goals. You should always be ready to adjust your ways.

8. You’ll meet familiar faces in new and surprising roles. You should discover new potential capabilities in your team and your idea and let them grow and develop continuously.

9. The need to work hard and prove your ideas never stops because the race is never ending. I hardly know anybody in the startup world who gets relaxed while still in the race. You should work not only hard but smart, and be ready to be as smart as possible while working hard ;)

10. If you are making progress, you owe it to everyone you worked with to support the team and the company you built. Be grateful to your team and your clients 

You’re welcome to share your experience and your thoughts on this topic 

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
http://www.altabel.com


%d bloggers like this: