Pareto Squared a.k.a. The Corbin Corollary

The other day I was having breakfast with David Corbin of Dynamic Concepts Development and he used an interesting model to describe his target market.  David does enterprise software development projects.  Given that most enterprises have internal IT capability, you’d think it would be tough to get a foot in the door, but David has a unique niche based on an extension of the time-honored Pareto Principle.

As he puts it, 80% of the enterprise development work can be handled in house with existing resources.  Of the remaining 20%, 80% can be accomplished through modest extension of existing capabilities (e.g. training).  The remaining 20% (of the original 20%) involves complexity that requires breadth/depth of skills beyond the in-house capability or reasonable extensions thereof.  Hence his niche of opportunity. He calls it the critical “4%” (20% of 20%, or Pareto Squared).

What This Means For Your Business

I think David’s onto something here, beyond solving nasty enterprise software problems.  The rules apply to the enterprise as a whole.  If you want to be “innovative”, if you’re looking for “disruption”, if you want to break ahead of the pack, you need to be looking hard at the 4%. Continue reading

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When Is It Time To Bail?

A bunch of us techie geek startup junkies were sitting around swapping war stories when I offered up that I had just backed off on a venture I’d co-founded.  One of the other guys said he’d recently done the same thing.  This brought up the obvious question, by another one of us still deep in the trenches: “When do you give up? How can you tell when to throw in the towel?” Continue reading

A Geek’s Guide To Staffing

They say if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Since I started my professional career as a systems reliability engineer, everything looks like a system, including staffing models. Guilty.

Here’s my geeks-eye view on why hiring and retaining top talent is so important, and why “settling” is so detrimental. Continue reading

Time-Sharing the C-Suite

I’m not the guy you want answering the phone if you’re selling Time-Share Condos.  For me there’s no value in spending every vacation, every year, in the same place – or spending a lot of time bartering for an exchange.  Vacation, for me, is about exploration new places, new experiences.  The whole time share model of predictability and stability of ownership at a fractional cost point doesn’t work for me… for vacation.

But, time-sharing does work just fine for me in my career.  And, it might work just as well for staffing your C-Suite. Continue reading

Is Making Money Your Goal? Should it be?

When I was a kid, back in the Mesozoic Era, I worked a paper route for the home town newspaper.  Back then towns actually had home town newspapers.  Back then nobody was concerned about a nine year old wandering around alone in all kinds of weather, daylight and darkness.

I was an unlikely prospect.  Smallest kid in my grade, the delivery bag looked downright comical.  I was also a lousy salesman.  All my direct sales calls resulted in dead air or polite “no, thank you”.  When I focused on making more money, I failed.  Yet I managed to build the route from 25 to 125 customers.  It surely wasn’t salesmanship.  It was service.  It was striving for operational efficiency.

Now you might ask what a nine year old knows about about service or operational efficiency.  Well, nothing.  What a nine year old does know is grownups get grumpy when their paper is late or wet.  And, nine year olds are lazy (at least this one was).  One result was that I made damn sure I got dry papers, on time, to my customers no matter what.  The big result, though, came from being lazy….err, operational efficiency. Continue reading

Never Play Defense

I like experiencing a sporting event live, in the home town venue. But when I was sitting on the “classic” wooden seats of Fenway Park, watching a long drawn out pitchers’ dual was not quite as satisfying as cheering  through a slugfest.  Likewise, a cold hockey rink is a whole lot colder when there’s no scoring going on.  Face it.  Defense is boring.  Defense is draining.  But defense is part of the game.  That’s because, in sports. you take turns.  Your turn for offense, then your turn for defense.

Business is different.  First off, there’s no limit to the number of teams in the game at one time.  Second, and most importantly, no one is taking turns. Continue reading

Typecasting For Fun And Profit

My first job in High School was “employee number 5” of a startup making nautical navigation receivers. (Cool electronics for boats.) They were all smart people. They wanted to hire another one to put together the kits of parts to be sent to the assembly houses. (Outsourcing in the early 70’s meant mom’s stuffing components into circuit boards in a neighbor’s basement.) After a few painful months, I was fired. The task of counting exactly the right number of exactly the right parts and putting them in exactly the right bags and boxes was too much for this adolescent-undiagnosed-ADD-geek to accomplish. How hard can counting be? Was I really an idiot? Thankfully, the future would prove otherwise. However, I was clearly not the right type of person for that role.

Continue reading