Product Complexity

19 10 2009

Jonathan Becher of the Manage by Walking Around Blog last week wrote about “Less is More.”  While he starts out with an attack on PowerPoint presentations, he then broadens his commentary to software.   His point is spot on and while I can not think about specific example in software, there have been a couple of interesting technology gadgets that could answer his question.

The most obvious to me is the Flip video camera.  They started with the premise that you don’t need all the special effects, and gadgetry that bloats R&D, wastes battery life, and ultimately increases the cost.  They provided just a video camera with a USB connection to download the film.  No more, no less.  And surprisingly (and telling) in the age of endless features that are rarely used it was an immediate hit.

  • In your space, are there customers that are over-served by the functionality of the competitive product suites?  If so, could you use this as a little Blue Ocean styled opportunity to address a new market?
  • How much of your product’s features are truly used?
  • Are the core functions of your product complicated by the rarely used features?
  • Do you run the risk of over complicating your product to its own demise?

I think it will be interesting to watch Flip grow over the next few years.  Will it attempt to morph the product to compete with the more complex video cameras?  Will it lose it’s identity as it does?  Is accessorizing the Flip a step in complexity, or merely a nice personalized touch?

Too Much

If we take Jonathan’s initial question a step in the opposite direction, can you think of a company that got too complex for its own good?

Here I think we can come up with a great many examples.  A clear example is Social Networking.  The initial idea behind LinkedIn was fantastic and it was easy to see why everyone bought in.  Lost former co-workers were easily found, and we could maintain a single repository for our network.  No matter when they changed jobs, everyone updated their profile.  Now, in an attempt to do more, LinkedIn is at risk of losing their audience.  Groups were a great idea, but their were no controls, no rules on how to use them (or not use them).  Now there are groups in every direction and people are using LinkedIn as a database marketing tool for pushing spam.  Facebook is perhaps beginning to fail under a similar complexity.  We all have friends that put their entire lives into Facebook (which may create its own problem) and send out virtual drinks, winks, pokes, games, flair, etc.   I would love to periodically hear what my friends are up to, but I can no longer find that out unless I spend a tremendous amount of time to design and manage the environment.





Wii or not to Wii

22 09 2009

One of the most interesting brand developments in a long time is the Nintendo Wii.  The video game market has been hot for some time now, but the story was the same.  Better graphics, better visuals, better reality and gore filled titles.  How do you break out of the crowd?

Look no further than the Nintendo Wii for a great story.

How about finding a different tact all together?  By starters, let’s take away a barrier to purchase – parents that don’t want their kids just sitting in front of their TV.  Let’s add an element of physical activity into the game.  Then let’s market family styled competition.  This is nothing less than brilliance.

  • What can you do to change the market parameters?
  • When was the last time you had a meeting of your best minds to challenge status quo?
  • Are you playing leap frog with your competition?
  • What would happen if you did something radically different?
  • When was the last time you came up with a brilliant idea and pushed it forward?




What goes up…

22 06 2009

“Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away” – well she didn’t, but customer demand finally did.

Monday June 22nd, 2009 – today marked the end of Kodak’s Kodachrome product.  After a 74 year run, Kodachrome only makes up less than 1% of Kodak’s revenues today.  While this clearly is another example that film is dead, it has bigger implications for performance.  Nothing lasts forever, brands will come and go.  It takes tremendous effort to get your brand to the top, but far more to keep it there.  Not only do you have your traditional competitors, but markets change, morph, and die all the time.

  • When was the last time you thought about what new products your competitors were launching?
  • Are you revolving or evolving the brand?
  • When was the last time you did a little Blue Ocean thinking?
  • Where are your biggest threats coming from tomorrow?
  • What is your process to identify these issues?
  • How tied are you to your infrastructure?

If you want to stock up before it fades away…

Who knows…someday you will find this on something like a Retro Ebay where oldies, but goodies go to never die.





Blue Ocean, Red Ocean…

21 04 2009

If you have not read the book on Blue Ocean Strategy, I would highly recommend it.  No matter what industry you are in or how competitive your market is, it should make you think about innovation.  Most companies I have worked with find it difficult to integrate innovation into their management cycle, and therefore innovation is done in an ad hoc manner.  

While a Blue Ocean (Red Oceans are competitive markets where everyone has spilled blood) market play may not be for everyone, you can think of new ways to measure the business, process improvements, compensation plans, marketing tactics, etc if you create a more formal manner for innovation.

Additionally, you might find a great deal of value of reassessing the competitive landscape.  It never hurts to discuss how would a new competitor attack the market.  All great businesses find themselves under threat from unseen ideas – this may just give you a more proactive manner to see the ideas coming.