Look no further. It's here, and it's coming on a fiber near you. Faster than you might think. Hey, we're humans, after all.
Look no further. It's here, and it's coming on a fiber near you. Faster than you might think. Hey, we're humans, after all.
At the Broadband World Forum Europe, which opened its doors yesterday in Paris, a small Canadian firm is making the buzz. Genesis (what a cool name ;-) Technical Systems (slightly less appealing ;-), aka GenesisTechSys, is unveiling its Bonded DSL Rings™ (BDR) solution. A patent-pending access technology, BDR re-uses the existing copper plant to deliver up to 400Mbps of bandwidth.
As Stephen Cooke, President & CTO, describes it, BDR uses each house as an regenerator for the next connected one. So to speak, as with Skype: more users means more bandwidth available for the community.
According to Stephen, Bonded DSL Rings™ is to leave the labs early next year, for the first field trials by mid-2010. For the time being, the only data at our disposal is available on GenesisTechSys website, with the FAQs here.
BDR seems to be an interesting option for Rural Broadband: able to provide Peer-to-Peer, Open Neutral Access on existing infrastructure, for an investment way lower than Fiber - Genesis claims 1/100th the cost of fiber in rural areas, so let's be conservative and say BDR costs 1/10th of FTTH : I know lots of local authorities in France who would sign the tender right now...
Anyhow, this announcement should ring two bells in a Telecoms veteran' s mind (like me, got it ? ;-). First, BDR proves once again that Copper is not dead, although Fiber is going further each day everywhere around the Planet. Copper-based access networks are here for the next 20 years, thanks to some big surprises coming from newcomers like Genesis.
Second, speaking of newcomers : let's hope we are not witnessing a new Silk Road type of adventure. This time, there are people at the other end of the line...
Does anyone have a clue about Alca-Lu' s stuff there ? I mean, have you read or heard about the French-American firm efforts in the Green sector outside its own corporate PR ? I'm afraid this silence is one of the too many instances of the real situation of the former Telecoms giant: Alcatel-Lucent is dying, like Nortel. Innovate, or die. Simple.
Twitter-Master @guykawasaki has posted a link to a useful article written by Stuart Cross of BNET UK. The Top Five Innovation Killers. Worth reading, including for those of you who think you already know everything about innovation.
By a curious hazard, my dear coach Hal Stitt sent me the links to his new program, aimed at helping companies to grow during harsh times: Recession Strategies:
No Single Recession Strategy Fits Everyone
Emerging businesses have no ongoing business to protect. The winning strategy must be to quickly identify, characterize, and win new customers. Agility is vital to winning strategies in emerging business segments. The customers are also creating emerging businesses of their own.
Growth businesses must protect the customers they have while they create new ones in a long term fight to gain market share. The goal must be to win a leading market share before the growth phase transitions into maturity in order to generate lots of cash to fund new emerging and growth strategies.
Mature businesses are the most directly affected by economic slowdowns. The natural tendency is to oversimplify, to cut costs and expenses across the board. That ignores the likely reality that while most of the customers in mature markets cut back on discretionary spending with vigor (e.g. cars and houses), others may be increasing their spending in more recession-proof projects of their own. Those opportunities get killed as collateral damage in a simple expense cutting strategy.
Even Established Businesses Have Options
Houses and cars have been hit hard in the current recession, but a state-controlled liquor store here in Eugene, OR reported in early February, 2009 that their sales in 2008 were up 65% over 2007.
Ashley Heher, Associated Press, reported at about the same time; "The ever-popular Wii gaming console continues to sell out at the list price of $249 (US), Avon cosmetics just boosted prices, Nike is releasing its newest Air Jordan with an astonishing $190 price tag, and designer water can still command as much as $3.99".
All of the businesses above are established, not startup or growth businesses. If you are in an established business, the chances are good that some parts of your business are impacted like houses and cars are, other parts are more like the liquor store, and many others lie along the continuum between those extremes.
In his post "The panhandler' s secret", Seth Godin tells us how he discovered the secret of a successful sale:
"When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious.
One day, I'm walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, "Do you have a dollar for four quarters?" He held out his hand with four quarters in it.
Curious, I engaged with him. I took out a dollar bill and took the four quarters.
Then he turned to me and said, "can you spare a quarter?"
What a fascinating interaction.
First, he engaged me. A fair trade, one that perhaps even benefited me, not him.
Now, we have a relationship. Now, he knows I have a quarter (in my hand, even). So his next request is much more difficult to turn down. If he had just walked up to me and said, "can you spare a quarter," he would have been invisible.
Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.
Interact first, sell second."
Actually, a successful sale is a 4-step process, and only 4 steps.
I personally have applied it all along my professional life in the High Tech business-to-business without knowing I was following this very process, like Monsieur Jourdain in Moliere' s "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" was speaking prose all his life without knowing it.
Since a few years, I'm experiencing this 4-step process in the real life, I mean B2C. Helping a friend of mine, owner of a luxury menswear store, during the Winter and Summer shopping festivals here in France, I'm selling Pierre Cardin suits (and jackets, shirts, ties...) during the weekends. Ever been selling something to consumers ? During a shopping festival ? On the saturdays and sundays ? I tell you : it's tough. To me, selling a 259€ Pierre Cardin' "Travel" suit in January is way harder than selling for $ 1M of Optical Test equipments to a Telco during Downturn. Because the competition is harder (there are plenty of other stores selling suits, at lower prices) and convincing the decision maker (i.e. the wife or the mother ;-) is more difficult.
However, I achieve the quota, and even more. There's no secret here, just evidence. Here are the four steps of a successful sale :
#1 : engage. What Seth Godin calls "interact", or my dear coach Hal Stitt names "ingroup". In the case of this menswear store, it consists of... greeting the clients. Say "hello". With a big large smile.
You can't believe how this first step is important: it is the key differentiator against the competition. I tell you: so many people coming back to us saying "you are the only store where we feel welcomed"...
#2 : listen. Here, it's a two-fold step: first, observe the end-user - ooops, the guy, and his decision maker - ooops, his wife (or his girl friend, or his mother, or his... boy friend - yes, it happens sometimes ;-) Which jacket or suit they touch, how they talk to each other, etc.
Then, and only then, you can go to them and offer them your assistance: "how can help you spend less time here" was the winning formula I found this year last January. Apparently, so unusual that it's an instant ice-breaking, giving you the opportunity to start the discussion with the client : what are they looking for, which usage (for instance in the case of a suit: is it for every day, if yes which kind of job, is it for a wedding, if yes, is he the lucky guy, etc.), what budget, if any, etc.
#3 : suggest. Once the end-user has clearly expressed his requirements, you can propose him a selection of your products which might fit to his needs. Sounds familiar, right ? In the case of this store, it can be the same suit but in two different sizes, or the same style but made of different wool, etc.
Here, don't forget the back-up plan: maybe the first solution you'll propose won't fit. Then, you have to be ready to immediately suggest a second solution. In the case of a suit, it can be a different size, a different style, a different fabric.
#4 : close. The end-user is happy with your solution ? Fine. Now the tough part: make him pay. First of all, you need to get the decision maker on the same line. In the case of Menswear, surprisingly enough (at least to me when I started a few years back), it's the Woman who decides, statistically 80% of the deals. Make sure she likes her man in this beautiful 2-buttons Cardin 2008. In other words, make HER shine. Tell her husband that looking nice in that suit will make his wife look even cuter. Speak respect and honor, things that women loves to hear from a man because it so rare those days. In summary, pay attention to HER problem.
In the case of B2B, it could be that the decision maker - the CEO, the Procurement manager, the Field Op director, whoever - is facing issues with manufacturing, shipments, deliveries, data processing, whatever problem making his days a real pain. There are tons of business books and blogs out there on the subject, so this is not the purpose of this post to explain it ;-)
In summary: engage, listen, suggest, close. Efficient in both B2C and B2B. The key is: pay attention to the customer. Say "hello".
I have been invited by Cisco to attend the EUSEW 09 next week in Brussels, Belgium.
I've got my badge this morning : in a EC' stamped envelop. I'm proud to be European ;-)
John St. Julien of Lafayette, LA, has published an article titled "LUS Fiber delays start" on the LafayetteProFiber blog. Says John in his introduction : "LUS has missed its deadline to serve the first customers in January of this year. They point to uncompleted contracts for cable channels as the reason for the delay—contracts LUS has signed but the folks that control the channel packages have not returned."
For those of you who are not familiar with the LUS Fiber project, you may find relevant informations on the LUS Lafayette Utilities System website here. In summary, the city of Lafayette is building its own FTTH Fiber-To-The-Home network. Get all details and interactive maps here on the LUS Fiber website.
The first customers were supposed to be served "by early 2009", meaning now. Unfortunately, it seems that some issues with the services providers have lead to delay the network' turn up (hey dear readers of Gonfreville-l'Orcher, France: does it sound familiar to you ?...).
What is surprising to me, as someone who's deeply involved into FTTH' matters since 18 months now, is the fact that missing contracts for TV services do screw up the whole thing. How about Voice and Internet ? Or other services, outside of the TriplePlay arena ? Such as Tele-Medicine, Tele-Education, Tele-whatever-that-is-not-Vision...
According to the LUS Fiber FAQ' page, Voice and Internet are part of the package offered to subscribers. Hence the confirmation: in people's mind, FTTH means HDTV, full-stop. That's why it goes wry everywhere but in Asia. See in France, for instance : why would people ask for fiber, when they can get hundreds of TV channels in high-def with DSL ?...
Here comes the PBC Pau Broadband Country. Decided in 2002, right in the middle of the Dotcom crash' s long-tail effects. Signed up in 2003, when NO standard or recommendations even exist on Active Ethernet P2P FTTH networks. Opened in 2005, when VoIP and IPTV were just crossing the chasm toward mainstream. Today, PBC is a model. The mother of all Muni Fiber networks. It works, it attracts businesses, it helps creating the lifestyle that goes with ultra-broadband.
It's time to share the Pau Broadband Country' s experience(s). First workshop by the end of March. Stay tuned.
Last week in Lightwave Online Mag : "Sunrise Telecom completes two divestitures", this news made my day : "The Company also announced it has completed the divestiture of its high- resolution OTDR business in Switzerland. The company sold the business to its former managers and will share in any future upside potential."
I'm so happy the bozo is now forced to find money by himself. Of course, there won't be any upside potential with those guys : somebody who didn't "live and sleep" at Boeing' s HQ when the giant was evaluating his product don't deserve success. Alleluia.
Brian Solis of TechCrunch just published an outstanding article on entrepreneurship during a downturn time such as the one we are encountering today.
"Fear Kills Businesses, Dead" is a must-read for all of us who are in the Business.
We surely know it already, for most of us have been through the last crisis just a few years ago - remember the Dotcom ? However, some of us may be overhelmed by negative thoughts at the moment, generated by all the bad news we hear of all day long.
Therefore, here's our cure, folks:
"Building Your Business in a Recession
Obviously, capital preservation and cost cutting do not equate to sustenance or growth. The driving factors are poles apart when striving to merely stay alive vs. building a business.
If you’re sheltering cash to focus on development, then cut the services and expenses that will not impede your ability to cross the threshold to market success. If you’re conserving funds to prolong life, then realize that the only fountain of youth is cash itself. Focusing energies on generating revenue, increasing visibility, and enhancing customer loyalty are the most effective strategies for underwriting longevity, and hopefully growth, especially during an economic downturn.
The real question you have to ask yourself is, “How will my customers find me today and tomorrow?”
I’m not sure if this is a newsflash or not, but customers do not typically go out of their way to “discover” your products and companies. They have choices and it’s the job of any marketing and sales-centric business to reach their customers where they go for information—otherwise, they’re out of the decision making process by default. Marketing and sales are the conduits for connecting prospects to your business.
In a down economy, tomorrow’s leaders are born today. It takes vision, focus, and a hyper-connected sense of what customers are seeking, why, and where.
The reality is that there are hard costs tied to customer acquisition and retention. The key is to observe and listen to your customers to ascertain the most active and direct channels to reach and engage them.
Here are several, targeted and affordable suggestions:
1. SEO – Customers actively use search engines to find relevant solutions. Keyword and organic search optimization is an inexpensive and effective means for gaining strategic presence.
2. Blog Relations – It’s not just about news and pitching the A-List, creating a consistent and visible brand requires the inclusion of the authoritative, peer-to-peer blogs that your customers and influencers read for information, help and perspective. Oh, and be wise about using embargoes.
3. Media/Analysts – Reporters and analysts cover your space and by simply writing about your company or product, they can position you as an option among your customers; especially when they’re researching options to validate decisions.
4. Direct Sales – Some of the most successful companies right now are concentrating on direct outreach to the decision makers instead of hoping to influence them from the sidelines.
5. CRM – Building a customer-focused business saves money and increases revenue. Focusing on customers and empowering them improves business processes, product development, and also offsets marketing expenses as “involved and participatory” customers transform from a cost-center into an active surrogate sales force.
6. Participate – Social networks are much more than mere time killers. Participating across the social communities where you’re customers and prospects are active and vocal provides a looking glass into their thoughts, requests, opinions, dislikes, and recommendations. It also provides you with priceless opportunities to combat negative perceptions while also positioning your company as a resource.
7. Thought Leadership – One of the best ways to demonstrate thought leadership is to actively share your thoughts where they count. Contributing articles and posts to industry publications, forums, and blogs increases visibility and unobtrusively contributes to your sales strategy by helping customers find you.
8. Blog and Blog Comments – It may seem trite or perhaps even worthless, but I can guarantee that finding the time to host and contribute to a blog that demonstrates the expertise of you and your team is priceless. People are looking for information and direction, not just from your blog but others as well. Go where they are and offer counsel, contribute to the dialogue and establish trust and authority in the process. Why wouldn’t you position yourself as a resource for your customers or prospects? Too busy you say? Empower your staff. Contract outside experts to contribute to creating a one-stop-shop for insight and direction—just be transparent about their involvement. It costs less than you think to build a community around your product, or at least what it stands for.
9. Network in the real world – Participation isn’t solely relegated to online networks. Opportunities to meet and cultivate relationships in the real world are abundant. Meetups, industry events, groups, unofficial lobbycons associated with your favorite events are continuous and more valuable with your involvement.
10. Involve Your Community – Save money and time by involving your customers in the development process of your new and iterative products as well as your go to market strategy. Alpha customers are often ready to assist with the validation of your business model and also the honest feedback associated with your product benefits and features.
11. Websites are not Just Web Pages – Your Website must make an emotional connection with visitors, while also conveying stories and value propositions that specifically capture the attention of your customers – otherwise, all of your hard work and investment of time and money in sales and marketing campaigns will generate traffic, but lead to a dramatically reduced conversation ratios.
12. Innovate – Always learn and improve everything in order to stay relevant."
This and much more in Solis's post here.
Evangelism and Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki has posted a 10-points explanation on how to use Twitter for business. That's "Twitter for Dummies", if you wish: a must read for all of you don't have a Twitter account yet.
I often wrote here and there that I wished we Agilent Musketeers had such a tool at our disposal when we were developing our flagship product: there is no better way to reach and keep in touch with the end-users.
That's why I as many other folks out there are putting Twitter at the center of (product) marketing strategies, whatever "marketing" means for you.
The famous, long expected, mission-critical strategic plan for the development of the digital economy in France has been presented this morning by Mr. Eric Besson.
The whole document is available here (.pdf, in french). Lots of interesting action items and initiatives to notice, for instance : aerial fiber cabling, Web 2.0, innovative services to the person, etc.
As of now, Monday October 20 at 5:30PM CET, the www.francenumerique2012.fr website is unavailable, for the english version to be downloaded. Unfortunately, the official website in english of the Prime Minister don't mention the document.
I'll post the link to the english version as soon as possible.
Whilst the french community is busy preparing the Grenelle du Très Haut Débit, where some members of the French Government will (hopefully) unveil its plans for fibering (hopefully) the country, others are working hard to make things real.
Congratulations and all the best to Geoff Daily, the organizer of this fantastic event for all of us evangelists of broadband, open neutral networks.
I've embedded the interview of Terry Huval, director of LUS Lafayette Utility Systems, by Geoff, for you to get a flavor of what's going on in the US those days.
Ed. note : I can't stop thinking about the situation if Napoleon didn't sold Louisiana to the US two hundred years ago. Maybe France would have been the true leader of the Broadband communities movement...
As I've both an iPhone and a PocketPC, I can do head-to-head comparison. I swear, it's not because I'm an Apple Fanboy, but the AppStore rocks and the WinMobApps sucks. A matter of product design, of course : the user experience per se, with the integration of the store into a global solution, the ease-of-use, etc.
For instance, the Microsoft store requires you to install Silverlight, to enable the caroussel type of product selection. Guess what : this feature is embedded into Mac OS X (ever heard of CoverFlow ?)...
That is a pretty stupid strategy from the guys in Redmond (another one ? ;-), proving that Microsoft is struggling like hell to stay... alive.
Funny MacDailyNews take on that one : "Any day now, we expect a post-liposuction Ballmer to show up at some trade show dressed in jeans and a black mock turtleneck saying "Boom!" a lot."
Question : Who the heck developed this mission-critical app ?
Next question : When the hell will the big guys (hey, you're seeing a large bank here) realize that Windows really sucks ?
Yesterday in Mortain, a beautiful small town a few miles away from the Mont St Michel,was the 3d Ultra-Broadband Conference, held by the french optical cable manufacturer ACOME.
Here are my running notes, as is - means no re-writing * ( my personal comments under brackets ) :
Regis Paumier, CEO, ACOME. keynote speech :
- CETHD Center of Expertise for Ultra Broadband : 1,000+ visitors to date (note : opened mid 2007)
- there are many issues with Quality and Maintenance (on optical networks, FTTx)
- key issue in France (on FTTH) : rural environment.
Ms. Agnes Huet, President, Comptoir des Signaux. market survey by the FTTH Council Europe :
- FTTx networks Business Model :
a) OpenAccess is mandatory
b) Operator vs. End-User : capacity becomes commodity; extends potential services; puts the End-User at the center of the market.
- User-oriented solutions : puts the End-User at the epicenter of the system : dynamic bandwidth allocation, dynamic services allocation.
- Open Access / Open Networks not widely adopted in France : very few existing networks allow such services.
- xPON infrastructures limit Open Access systems.
- Collectivities want to : investigate all potential solutions; model contribution and ROI.
- Collectivities claim they don't have visibility on those solutions (hence the need for permanent live show-rooms).
Yves Le Mouel, President, French Federation of Telecoms (i.e. : Operators) :
- FTTH in France : need 100k new subscribers per month to be considered "mainstream";
- Investments : estimation = 10 Billions euros over 10 years (see recent announcement by SFR - link in french);
- New Business models must be invented, because based on abundance of bandwidth and services;
- the key question is : how to deploy a complex infrastructure to deliver services the simplest way (note : hence the need for a complete paradigm shift. Think Different);
- how FTTH will win by 2012 : the Killer App.
- the Killer App : images, video, online gaming, music, unlimited storage (read : Cloud Computing);
- services : teleworking, telemedicine, teleassistance, telemonitoring, online shopping;
- QoS : PnP, Easy2Go, AlwaysOn.
- avoid the Digital Divide : think Geography, Social, residential customers vs. enterprises...
- issues to be fixed : evangelisation, training & education of networks' deployment professionals (comment : good to hear that from the operators themselves);
- this represents more than 100,000 jobs (comment : good to hear that one too. I personally claim FTTH is a unique opportunity for new jobs and businesses creation, since months);
- target FTTH France 2012 : 3-Mo new subscribers per year. Same as ADSL. (comment : on this one, I slightly disagree : ADSL is easy to deploy, because it uses an existing infrastructure. FTTH : you need to install at least the last mile).
Thierry Houdart, Deployment Director, Axione (ETDE groupe Bouygues). an innovative solution for optical cable deployment :
- install the optical cable along the low-voltage power distribution network;
- speed : up to 1-km per day, by 2 technicians;
- no traffic disruption (road, power, telecom, etc.);
- capillarity : the fiber cable can go right to the end-user;
- infrastructure' cost : divided by a factor of 2 to 3 compared to existing traditional solutions, e.g. buried cables;
- green deployment : lower the CO2 emissions by 50%.
My personal take (this time w/o brackets, because it's a pretty crucial point ;-) : I assume the cost of deployment with this new solution is less than 30€ per meter, all together - site survey, components, installation, etc. Let say we can achieve 15€/m : a fantastic quantum leap for FTTH.
This solution is a true paradigm shifting one anyway : the split of the cost of deployment is no longer 80% civil work and 20% components + instal; it is now 20% civil work and 80% components + installation. On top, it's an eco-friendly solution. Fiber finally goes Green. Brilliant.
* I wish I could capture notes this way ;-)
Rumor confirmed by a source who was dealing with Sunrise Telecom (SRT) on a *advanced fiber monitoring system* : SRT's Swiss-based subsidiary is no longer part of the company.
The lovely city of Pau is truly The Broadband Country. See this hand dryer in the restrooms at the Pau airport. The Dyson Airblade™. It wipes your hands dry in a matter of seconds, the time for you to realize that it's done. When hygiene and fun meet. That's innovation, Folks !
For more details on the Airblade™, go here.
You may read the whole "Why Airblade" section : it's a pretty nice lesson of product marketing.
Also, the Customer Service part is a model. I never thought hands drying could be so interesting.
Wow. This recent post is becoming such a hit that I'll have to update my top-ten most popular list (by the way, does it mean the shorter post the better hit ? ;-)
Here's the comment I left on NyquistCapital earlier today :
"I’m not convinced at all that it would make a lot of sense from a pure industrial perspective. Except a very few boxes in EXFO’ s product lineup, JDSU has it all. No need to add doublons to an already up & runing one-stop-shopping center. Maybe EXFO has some neat new technologies for emerging 40G or else, but JDSU has enough resources to do innovative R&D.
The only reason why JDSU should buy EXFO is to take over their North America installed base (plus a couple of key accounts here and there in EMEA).
Then, the acquisition makes sense. EXFO would be wipped out from the marketplace, full stop. Which would make the T&M landscape a bit more clear : three major players - Agilent, JDSU, Anritsu, plus an emerging one : Fluke/Tek.
The true Telecoms Test Powerhouse is this one : Danaher. Fluke + Tektronix. They cover the whole spectrum, with customer-friendly solutions.
My advice : if there is one single player to watch in the T&M field for the years to come, it’s Danaher."
Let's have a look at the actual financial situation of our two favorites gamble players of the day :
JDSU : $10.41, Market Cap: $ 2.28B (source : Yahoo!Finance)
EXFO : $4.35, Market Cap: $ 300.05M (source : Yahoo!Finance)
EXFO is small enough for JDSU to buy it without that much hurdles. Let's assume the objective of the deal is for JDSU to take over the north american positions (read : customer base - e.g. Verizon) of EXFO. $ 600M the NA marketplace is definitely not a big deal for JDSU's investors.
Digging into the FiberGeneration' s stats of the day, it appears that more than one guy from Quebec, Canada, searched Google for JDSU + EXFO. Hum. Something in the air there, isn't it ?
Remember Zattoo ? The beta is available since a couple of days only, and people start googling for "zattoo for iphone". See here.
Would I be part of the Product Marketing team at the startup, I would immediately digg a little bit further : someone searching something so specific is a potential user. Or a potential rival. Actually, it doesn't matter, because IMHO the equation is simple : search = opportunity.
That's what most of the french businesses don't understand with the Web 2.0 : it helps you developping new products faster and better, for specific needs and/or applications and/or end-users.
This article, by Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor at the mandatory Light Reading, demonstrates once again that my country (France. You know, the little old piece of european land ruled by a superb showman) is truly leading the Telecoms World. But nobody here knows it, including our Emperor, ooops sorry, er. President, unfortunately.
To those of you who still think you need to pay hundreds of bucks to a PR agency for ensuring your visibility on the Web, you may think again. See this : somebody somewhere was searching Google for "optical networks contracting"; outcome : Fibergeneration came number one in the list, with this post.
Lesson : Seth Godin is right. First thing to do this year : Google yourself.
The old story about Alexander Graham Bell stealing ideas for the telephone from someone else resurfaces, with a new book due to be on the shelves on Jan. 7.
Quote Yahoo! : In "The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret," journalist Seth Shulman argues that Bell — aided by aggressive lawyers and a corrupt patent examiner — got an improper peek at patent documents Elisha Gray had filed, and that Bell was erroneously credited with filing first.
If you are interested in learning more on this long-lasting dispute " Who Really Invented the Telephone? ", the Telephone Tribute report here has the answer(s).
More on Shulman's perspective in the article here.
* original quote found on Wikipedia.
Post-scriptum : this story makes me think about my own idea. What if, in 100 years from now, somebody else than me will be credited for the reinvention of the Test & Measurement industry ? Well, I have the answer (al)ready : no one cares about T&M ;-)
Formula One champion Fernando Alonso just signed up a 2-years contract with the french team Renault Sports, which he left at the end of 2006 to join the Brits of McLaren.
The 2007 season was kind of a disaster for Alonso, who couldn't become F1 World Champion for the third time in a row because of some conflict with his own teammate, the young Lewis Hamilton.
The question is : did Alonso lost a year at McLaren ? Did Renault lost a year too, not being in the top-3 teams this year ? Answer is : not at all. Fernando Alonso has had the unique chance to learn a lot about another team, another philosophy, another strategy. Renault Sports has had the opportunity to test different technical solutions to overcome its interim misfortune. Combining both experiences will bring both of them to the next level.
What's the point ? This : change the names for whoever you want in your own business, and you'll understand why sometimes companies let their best people go to the competition for a while and then bring them back home.
Ten years after leaving my own firm to do something else, I'm back in the Fiber Optics Training & Consulting business. Since Monday this week, I'm in charge of the creation of a ad-hoc subsidiary at a 20-yrs old / 50-people / fast-growing company here in France.
It's a little bit strange to me : I'm paid to do what I haven't had the chance to achieve with my own firm ten years ago.
The good news is : today, the market is there (thanks to YouTube, Facebook, and MSN), the customers are there, and the tools are there (thanks to the Internet and the Web 2.0).
And thanks to those ten years out of this particular business, I've learned so many different things myself in so many different domains that I'm more capable to run this business successfully than in the 90's.
For instance, this : today, I've been working at Production, assembling and testing fiber patchcords. For the first time since 1983 when I first put my fingers around an optical fiber, I've been shaking. I was afraid of breaking the fiber whilst stripping it. Now I understand my attendees fifteen or ten years ago, when they were shaking and I was saying "come on guy, look at me, am I shaking ?"...
Over the last ten years, I've learned a lot of things, for sure. Maybe the most important one is humility.
This week could be the Week Of Broadband here in Europe, with the Apple+O2 deal on the iPhone in the UK, with ECOC'07, the european Fiber Optics conference & tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, and with Odebit'07, the Broadband conference in Paris, France.
Let's take this opportunity to go back to the fundamentals : why fiber is the only medium of choice when it's about delivering multimedia content instantly - Here is an excerpt of the FTTH Council' s Feb.07 report : "Fiber To The Home, Advantages of Optical Access " :
Common sense suggests that communities with plentiful, reliable bandwidth available will do better than those without. FTTH-powered bandwidth is essential for:
• Hometown businesses competing in a global economy.
• Professionals and others who work at home.
• Quality of life provided by online entertainment, education, culture and e-commerce.
• Special services for the elderly and for shut-ins.
FTTH thus helps define successful communities just as good water, power, climate and transportation have defined them for millennia.
That’s obviously so for greenfield developments – the data, in previous sections of this report, show that fiber-equipped homes and offices sell faster, and command a price premium over real estate developments without fiber. But what about existing communities? Direct comparisons are admittedly difficult because FTTH has not been widely available until recently, but virtually all of the real-world economic studies have borne out the predictions; none has suggested otherwise.
By far the most comprehensive look at broadband’s impact is a 2005 study by William H. Lehr, Carlos A. Osorio, and Sharon E. Gillett at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Marvin A. Sirbu, from Carnegie Mellon University. It was funded by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce and by the MIT Program on Internet & Telecoms Convergence (http://itc.mit.edu). The study found that broadband enhances economic activity, helping to promote job creation both in terms of the total number of jobs and the number of establishments. Broadband is associated with growth in rents, total employment, number of business establishments, and share of establishments in IT-intensive sectors.
There are also numerous case studies, comparing specific communities before and after public investment in broadband. A few examples:
• One early study, of a municipal fiber network built in 2001 in South Dundas, Ontario, showed substantial benefits. It was prepared for the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry.
• A 2003 study by D. J. Kelley comparing Cedar Falls, Iowa, which launched a municipal broadband network in 1997, against its otherwise similar neighboring community of Waterloo. Cedar Falls bounded ahead of its neighbor.
• More recently, Ford and Koutsky compared per capita retail sales growth in Lake County, Florida, which invested in a municipal broadband network that became operational in 2001, against ten Florida counties selected as controls based on their similar retail sales levels prior to Lake County’s broadband investment. They found that sales per capita grew almost twice as fast in Lake County compared to the control group.
Similar patterns have emerged for communities using FTTH provided by private enterprise. Fort Wayne, Indiana, has taken good advantage of a Verizon FiOS investment there, for instance. And in February 2007, two big studies of housing sales in Massachusetts – where FiOS is coming on line in numerous communities – show a startling recovery. Sales are up, and prices are down only slightly (after a decade-long rise that makes housing there among the most expensive in the United States).
The data are clear and consistent: FTTH, whether provided by private or municipal organizations, is an economic plus for all communities, and an outright boon for many.
FTTH and Economic Development FTTH helps define successful communities just as good water, power, climate and transportation have defined them for millennia.
Also a must-read, the american online magazine Broadband Properties. Its baseline : "Building The Fiber-Connected Community".
" For the hundreds of climate-change activists who have camped out near Heathrow Airport for the past week, there is only one way to reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft: Stop flying so much. "
Must we quit flying to save the planet? the article published yesterday on the Seattle Time, by Mark Rice-Oxley is a must-read for all of us, especially those whose wallet sports one or more Gold/Platinum/Whatever-metal frequent flyer card.
Here's the conclusion :
[He noted that] 45 percent of all flights in Europe are less than 310 miles. "The French and Germans are showing that if you invest in good railways, you can persuade people to travel by rail and not by air."
But it's not only about leisure travel. Business travel makes up, by some estimates, 40 to 50 percent of all air travel. One element of the British OMEGA project is a study that looks at how business can reduce its aviation carbon footprint.
Keith Mason, who is leading the study, said it involves persuading businesses to measure the carbon they consume, choose flights that are not just the cheapest but are least environmentally damaging, use rail when possible and make greater use of videoconferencing and Internet solutions.
"We are aiming to come up with a range of practical tools that will help companies start managing their carbon consumption," Mason said. He noted that one company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, has introduced an internal "carbon budget" whereby its 1,000 top travelers must reduce their CO2 footprint by 20 percent.
Some experts think similar personal carbon budgets — rationing — may be the solution.
"It's too late for voluntary mechanisms," Anderson said. "Carbon allowances are the only fair way to deal with this."
I wonder if I would still be able to collect 150 boarding passes in a year, as I did back in 2000.
On the other hand, flying every two days or so is exhausting - ask your captain the next time you get in an airplane. And opportunities to create new businesses out of this new situation (i.e. Global Warming) are tremendous...
Yesterday, I had a diner with a fairly young entrepreneur, involved with some high-tech firm in the US. Among other things, we discussed a little bit about team-working. For me, after so many years in business, team working is the only solution to move ahead and progress.
I've had the chance to learn it at the very beginning of my career, at my first position with the French Railways, back in the early 80's. We were a team of *only* three people in a Division of hundred, but we were the most productive ones. The reason : the three of us were like the pieces of a puzzle, fitting perfectly well together whilst featuring some overlap in our personalities, making our team strong and indefeasible (almost like the Fantastic Four, although we didn't have a The Thing with us). There was the Rational Thinker (my friend Bernard M., now a masterpiece at french ISP NeufCegetel), the Hands-On Expert (my friend Christian B., still doing fiber optics for the sake of the French Railways), and the Creative Builder (myself). Discussing a new idea or working on a project was always the same story : controversial yet productive, friendly & fun, which might be a dream for many people those days... Think about it this way : the Rational Thinker is the Finances guy, the Hands-On is the Manufacturing buddy, and the Creative Builder is the Marketing & Sales fellow (what else ? ;-). The perfect set-up for success.
Later, I've experimented the same situation with the Musketeers at Agilent Technologies. We were a bigger team of course, yet working together as one. The outcomes were absolutely stunning.
On the reverse side, I also learned the hard way how the lack of team work (not mentioning the lack of a team per se ;-) can blow your dedication away. When you have nobody to confront your thoughts with all day long even when sitting in the office, better be a freelancer : at least, your clients will listen to you, just because they're paying you for it (well, depends).
The best example of efficient teamwork is the famous medical drama television series Dr House. Says Wikipedia : "The team arrives at diagnoses using the Socratic method and differential diagnosis, with House guiding the deliberations. House often discounts the information and opinions from his underlings, pointing out that their contributions have missed various relevant factors."
In this setup, House is not the one who leads, he's the one who guides the discussion, acting as a facilitator aimed at taking the best out of the brainstorming.
Watching those sessions always reminds the days with Bernard & Christian : tough think tank exercises leading to outstanding results.
Ed. note : I really love the series, for it's really entertaining. My wife says it's because I do pretty much resemble to Gregory House, not because we both have a problem with one leg but because I like to tease people too ;-)
Because everything * Web 2.0 For The Customer * is in there, here is Patricia Seybold' s Biz 3.0 again.
There is no priority list, as every single 'principle' is as critical as the others. Keep in mind : customer relationships is a constant, open loop.
There is an ongoing discussion all over the Internet about the impact of the Web 2.0 technologies onto the internal mechanisms and behaviors of the enterprise. Of course, the tagline is Enterprise 2.0.
To get the flavor, read those detailed articles here and here, and watch the slideshow created by Scott Gavin here.
For all mind-opening or comprehensive those works are, there is one big yet crucial mistake done by their authors : they completely forget the customer. The client. The guy who pays you for the service you offered to him. In summary, the guy who makes your business.
Patricia Seybold, author of Outside Innovation, has it right : " our customers lead us beyond a customer-empowered Web strategy to a customer outcome-driven business strategy ".
Her article "WHAT’S BEYOND WEB 2.0 AND ENTERPRISE 2.0? BIZ 3.0!" is a must-read for those of you who want to understand what Web 2.0 can real bring out to your business, today, and tomorrow.
See the table Patricia has created to summarize her thoughts (and mine ! thanks to... the Wbe 2.0, I don't have to do it myself ;-). It's all in there.
Put the customer at the center of your enterprise flow chart instead of somewhere at the right hand side, and you'll be ready for the Biz 3.0 era. Which will come pretty soon, when one knows how quickly the Web 2.0 has changed our daily lives.