Digital Businesses and APIs

I first heard the term API during 1996-97, when I was programming in VB (Win32 APIs). Hence this is not a new term for sure. But you can hear this term quite frequently these days. What is happening? What has changed? Let us take couple of traditional businesses and see how they have operated.

Before 1990 During 1990-2010 Now
A bank used to transact only between certain business hours till some time back. Internet Banking Came into Picture. One needed a Desktop to operate. Center and Web as Channels. Internet and Mobile Banking All one need is some form of mobile device to operate. Operations are 24/7 and the channels are multiple.
The business model for an University to run courses on-premise between certain business hours. Universities started providing online courses. Online, Offline Courses available. Courses are provided via Web , Mobile and Tablet channels Newer models like MooC coming into picture
A Book store selling books in their stores/chain of stores between certain business hours Internet Shopping via Browsers Store still exist. Most of the shopping happens via Tablets, Mobile and Web. Price Comparison Sites/Applications. Sell via Blogs and other websites (Widgets). Retargeting

What is the underlying trend? Internet Explosion and growth of Smart Phones/Devices has forced companies to rethink the way they have done business. The disruption has made companies to rethink their business models. Newer Digital Business Models are evolving which is enabling companies to reach to newer markets, global customers and gain competitive advantage. Few examples You can pay utility bills via the popular chat application you are using http://www.innovativechina.com/2013/07/china-merchants-bank-launches-its-own-wechat-bank/ http://www.opptrends.com/2014/04/after-alibaba-tencent-now-baidu-inc-bidu-comes-with-mobile-wallet/ Internet companies are providing interest for your deposits. http://qz.com/160589/alibaba-yu-e-bao-money-market-account-serious-threat-to-chinese-banks/ It’s a great thing for a consumer and definitely a great opportunity for companies. To address this increasing number of channels and look at newer business opportunities and models, companies needed a way to expose and consume data. APIs have become the common way to expose, consume and communicate to the various channels and fuel innovation.

An API — Application Programming Interface — at its most basic level, allows your product or service to talk to other products or services. Via What is an API?

To see an API in action, check this https://developer.pearson.com/apis/topten-travel-guides/#!/travel/listCategories_get_0Portal shows all the APIs that are available. Good one. This is one of my favorite example. Is this happening in just one industry? No, the changes are across the industries (Banking, Retail, Healthcare, Energy, Transportation, Automotive) to name a few. Check this link to see the fastest growing API Categories http://www.slideshare.net/programmableweb/fastest-growing-web-api-categories-last-6-months/ Different types of APIs

  1. Open APIs (Public, Web APIs – Open to All)
  2. Partner APIs  (Protected, Open to Select Few)
  3. Enterprise APIs (Private, Your traditional SOA Based mostly, Open to Employees only)

In a nutshell, APIs are a must-have in any technology strategy today. APIs power the Digital Business and acts as the Glue in SMAC stack. References: http://apievangelist.com/index.html http://www.cutter.com/content-and-analysis/resource-centers/agile-project-management/sample-our-research/apmu1306.html Happy Learning!!!

Technology Ecosystem for the Modern Day Business Application Developer

Technology is changing at a rapid pace. Everyday you see something new to be learnt, which did not exist few months back. If you are like me, who has come from an application development background, what does this change means to you?

For sure, this is not for gyan. Tried depicting this in a form, which i could use as a reference.  I purposefully, hace not included Desktop applications in this. If you are working in some of them, you may have include it for yourself. Obviously, this may change when we revisit this in couple of months.

Similarly, things like Programming Languages (Java, C#, Ruby), OOPS Concepts, TDD, SOLID Principles are foundations.

Technology Ecosystem

Is this Perfect? Not Necessarily. This is my version and you may have a different way of visualizing this. If you create one, please do share it with me :)

Did I cover all aspects? Not really. Take Analytics as an example. If you take Descriptive Analytics, you start looking at traditional Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, Data Visualization etc. Each one is a separate block diagram on its own. Hence, i have stopped it at a very high level for this.

Can i be a master of all this? May not be possible. But if we have to call ourselves as techies, then we at least need to know what these are, where we can use them and may be pick and choose couple of items that could be of our interest and master it.

Happy Learning!!!

Why do i need to understand the business model canvas?

One quick question, that comes to everyone’s mind is that why do i need to understand the fundamentals of Business model canvas? It is a very common misconception that a Business model canvas is used only to visualize new business models. You need to know this only if you are going to have your own start up.

In reality a business model canvas allows you to visualize a new or existing business models, how your organization is creating, delivering, and capturing value. If it is a existing business, business model canvas is  based on a series of facts. Operating divisions execute the known business model.  Inside existing companies and divisions, the business model canvas is used as a tool to implement and continuously improve existing business models incrementally. This might include new products, markets or acquisitions.

Reference: http://steveblank.com/2012/12/03/the-future-of-corporate-innovation-and-entrepreneurship/

Use a Business Model Canvas :

  • If you are joining a new company, you use this to understand the business model of the new company.
  • If you are working with a customer, you can do use this to understand your customers better.
  • If you are talking to a new prospect you can use the canvas to have a better understanding of your new prospect, so that you can engage in a better conversation.

If you are working with a services organization, it is very important to understand this in detail, so that you will be able to help your company sustain and farm their existing relationships.

Happy Learning!!!

Business Model Canvas

The first time, i came to know about Business Model Canvas was couple of years ago. I always thought i understood the fundas. But recently tried this and realized it was not the case.

I was recently working on creating a strategy map and landed in this excellent post by Steve Blank “The Future of Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship“.  This post is a must read, if you want to understand why we are doing this.

While org charts provided the “who” of a business, companies were missing a way to visualize the “how” of a business. Strategy Maps are one of the ways companies visualized the “How” of a business. Strategy Maps are a tool to translate the strategy into specific actions and objectives to measure the progress of how the strategy gets implemented.

By the 21st century, organizations still lacked a tool to create and formulate new strategies. Enter the Business Model Canvas. The canvas describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value (economic, social, or other forms of value). The canvas ties together the “who and how” and provides the “why”. External to the canvas are the environmental influences (industry forces, market forces, key trends and macro-economic forces.) With the business model canvas in hand, we can now approach rethinking corporate innovation strategy and structure.

Existing companies and their operating divisions implement known business models. Using the business model canvas, they can draw how their organization is creating, delivering, and capturing value. A business model for an existing company or division is not filled with hypotheses, it is filled with a series of facts. Operating divisions execute the known business model. Plans and processes are in place, and rules, job specifications, revenue, profit and margin goals have been set. Forecasts can be based on a series of known conditions.

Inside existing companies and divisions, the business model canvas is used as a tool to implement and continuously improve existing business models incrementally. This might include new products, markets or acquisitions.

Couple of good references to understand this in detail
Understanding Business model fundamentals
Business Model Canvas 101
Understanding Facebook Business Model
Understanding Google Business Model

Happy Learning!!!

Business Model vs Business Plan

How do you explain the difference between a  business model and business plan? I recently tried and struggled to explain. Found this excellent post by Steve Blank here.

Business Plan

A business plan is the execution document that existing companies write when planning product-line extensions where customer, market and product features are known. The plan is an operating document describes the execution strategy for addressing these “knowns.”

Entrepreneurs treat a business plan, once written, as the culmination of everything they know and believe. All they need to do is add money and magically that five-year forecast in Appendix A will simply happen if they execute to the plan.

 Business Model

A business model describes how your company creates, delivers and captures value. A business model is designed to change rapidly to reflect what you find outside the building in talking to customers. It’s dynamic and it reflects the iterative reality that businesses face. 

References:

Validate Your Business Model Start With a Business Model, Not a Business Plan

No Plan Survives First Contact With Customers – Business Plans versus Business Models

From Business Models to Business Plan

Happy Learning!!!

Stop Blaming Others. Take ownership of your own team members… at the least!!!

Hiring good people is not easy. It doesn’t matter what role you are hiring (Architect, Manager, Tech Lead, Developers, Automation Engineers. Don’t question me why I have not mentioned manual testers in this list :(), it takes a while to find the right person.

Hire MeI am involved in Hiring people for the last 10 years and my average is 40:1. Unless you are lucky and know someone for the job, you may have to speak to 40 candidates before finding 1 Good guy. This average has not reduced in the last 10 years and I don’t see that reducing. It means on an average to get one good guy into the system, it takes approximately 40 hours (at the least).

After you spend so much time and on board a member, there is still no guarantee that the person whom you hired will work.

If it takes so much time to hire and on board a member, why not we spend time with those people, keep them motivated and retain them in our own teams. This is a question I get every time when I hear a good guy leaving.

I have heard multiple good people leaving off late and my frustrations has gone to its peak last week.

I recently heard a manager saying a good team member is leaving because this guy heard someone else talking for 10 minutes, got frustrated and leaving. I know that, I am a naive person. I don’t manage team members now. But, this immediately came out of my mouth.

Really…. Really…. Really…. Really….

May be, it could be just a triggering point. But, this guy would have left even otherwise. Why can’t this manager see this coming?

More than 1 million employees can’t be wrong, so bosses take heed of this. A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. 

If it takes so much time to hire a person, why don’t managers generally spend time with their best guys, motivate them and retain them?

After thinking for a long time this is my conclusion. Generally not every manager gets involved in Hiring. They don’t even speak to candidates and spend enough time before getting them on board. Otherwise, stand in the road with a board “I am hiring” and whoever comes in their way, offer them a job.

When you don’t spend time in hiring (like spending 40 hours), you will not even know what is involved in getting a good guy work for you. It’s someone else’ blood. Why should I care in that case?

Worried People

Guys… Let us stop blaming others. At least let us take ownership for our own people. Start spending time with your team members. Speak to them (1:1 – Once in a month) and understand them. Be available, honest and transparent. Help them resolve their day to day issues. Trust will automatically build. 1 Lac here and there will not become a major issue.

Better Bosses, Better Retention!

Happy Learning!!!


Image courtesy

Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How long did it take to build ….?

I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to and Interact with Hubert Smits couple of weeks back. One of the questions he asked during the interaction is “how long do you think it took to build empire state building (the tallest one when it was built in 1930s)”? There were answers like 10 years, 7 years, 20 years etc.

Empire State
He replied saying 400 odd days with 3400 workers… Immediately the follow up question was to complete the architecture and design? He said “No…” to complete the entire building.

I couldnt believe it immediately. Went and searched in Google and found links confirming the same.

http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/empirefacts.htm
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070510175905AAyRbD9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_State_Building

Some of the things which i could take as a lesson from this
1. It requires meticulous planning. I am not talking about creating a plan here… Continuous Planning.

2. The architect had previous experience in building something of this sort. But again, every project is unique in nature.. The risk management capabilities of this construction was beyond what we can imagine(identify, monitor, mitigate and track).
Women

3. The architects produced the initial design in 2 weeks, based on their previous experience. But, they would have refined it continuously as they built every floor.

4. Though the architects had previous experience, they would have ended up in new challenges every time. The design and development would have gone through iterations to address these challenges and not based on a big design upfront.

What this confirms is that even an industry which is considered to be the oldest, builds things iteratively and not based on one single plan. Hmm… now we are almost near end of 2013 and we work in a modern industry. But these practices are still @ a level where people only talk about it in most of the places.

Now… i will come back to my favorite place. May be after 50 years, someone might be writing about Belandur flyover. How long do you think it has taken to complete the incomplete Belandur flyover?

Happy Learning!!!

Image courtesy of

vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net