Which way are you looking?

More a company (and it’s employees) looks outside, the more it stays closer to its customers with a finger on their pulse. So is your company doing that or are you wasting most of your energy on internal cycles? Here is a quick and dirty way of finding out – inspired by Joel Spolsky. On a given day, try to keep a tab on the number of phrases and acronyms that you use (or someone does on you) that only folks within your company will understand.

You know how to interpret the numbers and watch out for the trend.

PS: Funny situations happen. In my first career as a spot FX trader I was once summoned by the CFO to his office. “Bring your TP along”, he said. Completely baffled about how to bring my “Take Profit” orders to his office, a colleague explained that the boss meant “laptop”. ThinkPad, that is.

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Happy Holidays and more…

CDI wishes all its readers the best for the season and happy holidays. In 2009

  • CDI increased readership by 18% over 2008
  • Couldn’t resist the lure of Facebook and is now there as well with exclusive content
  • Moved away from being a software Product Management blog to a more wholesome (hopefully) combination of Capital Markets, Technology and Business in general

Thank you to those who made all my efforts worthwhile. I wish you, your family and friends a very happy holidays and the best for 2010.

Stay well. See you in the next decade.

Designed to Serve

It makes a lot of sense for organizations to structure themselves mirroring the participants of their marketplace.  The one-to-one (nearly) relationship allows firms to understand their customer’s business better, align their services or products and in general stay clued to trends. Specialization leads to divisions that develop their own products, pricing, packaging and practices.

The trouble starts with an industry shakeup. Regulations changes, disruptive technologies swing by, consolidations happen and suddenly the elegant equation doesn’t look so nice anymore. There are early warning signals though. Signs of cannibalization within the firm are a reliable canary in the mine. Initially no one minds – “shuffling money from the left pocket to the right” is the standard justification. The problem is looked upon as an accounting issue. The cancer spreads in the meanwhile. Quite soon, the organization cannot satisfy customer needs anymore without getting tangled in its own organizational challenges. Mind you, the internal nature of the problem does not make it trivial. In fact it makes it more onerous. No one is interested in spending resources correcting a problem that when solved yields nothing immediate – like say what winning a large contract would bring. Finally when the fixers arrive, the firm becomes busy solving self problems rather than that of the customer’s. Bad, but inevitable.

Changing organizational designs incrementally, especially if you are in a dynamic industry, is a much superior option than big-bang transformations.

Hiring 2.0

When hiring knowledge employees, like say high class engineers, business managers or an expert in quantitative modelling, I encounter a problem. Their resume.

A resume is written from the job seekers perspective. It is a marketing document and I cannot exactly determine how much – it at all – should I discount the contents. Yes, I can put him through tests, quizzes and ask him why manhole covers are round but that adds to my hiring cost. I want to have a way to surreptitiously watch a timeline view of this person’s expertise in action – like they do through a two-way mirror during police interrogation. And the web should be able to do it for me.

It is very likely that an ace developer would have participated in some forum discussions, provided solutions to problems that people put out. She would have commented on some blog or may run a topical blog herself. A financial engineer would most likely be an active member of the Wilmot forum if he is smart, inquisitive and forthcoming – all the right skills employers look for. Smart people are always looking to increase their social capital in the web 2.0 world and spread their smarts – and as an employer I want to know how well a candidate is doing in that effort..

This is where traditional jobsites have become vulnerable. They have merely electronized the brick-and-mortar form of hiring. It is virtually impossible for them now to become expert networks and allow a much effective method of specialized hiring. They are consigned to remain in the commodity by-the-headcount market and just hope they do not lose scale (A giant like LinkedIn attempted a break away strategy through LinkedIn Answers. But after the initial spurt, it has kind of waned out). On the other hand an expert network like Stack Overflow first built a community, established an user-generated intellectual hierarchy and now plans to extend that for careers. Brilliant strategy.

If your company has a blog, just mine the comments to find out the smart ones interested in your business. And stop your subscription to the job sites.

Image courtesy: Speakerlauncher.com