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Trilogy Tidings
September 2017
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in this issue
     As often happens at this time of year, business obligations conspire with vacation time to kill my time available for monthly blogging. So ... I offer instead a reprise of some prior newsletter topics that my readers found especially interesting over the years.

     Happy reading. I hope your Summer time off was invigorating! 
Regards,
Joe

Big Data or Genuine Insight?               
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     So "Big Data" is obviously the phrase du jour.  I'm all for having access to lots of data. Properly managed and interpreted, Big Data  can lead to better decisions, more satisfied customers, more successful businesses,  maybe even a "better" society. Show me the benefits, and let's roll.

     But ... don't confuse Big Data with Genuine Insight. What am I talking about? Well,
I'm talking about stuff like understanding customer needs and preferences, assessing
the worth of a new technology or new-product idea, optimizing "customer experience",
deciding whether a contemplated M&A deal or partnering  arrangement makes any sense, and the like.

     Despite what some may demand, the preferred output of such activities is insight,
not some database. I acknowledge that the insight often must be supported by data in
some form, but never forget that the truly valuable output is genuine insight.

     So, what does it take to stimulate genuine insight? Well, here are some general
observations based upon my own experience. (The tactical details will depend upon the
context of your inquiry, but you get the idea.)
  • Understand the field of inquiry. Ideally, be - or become - an expert.
  • Identify and communicate with the right people. And, reach out to them using the right communication vehicle(s).
  • Don't obsess about large numbers of information sources and statistical significance. More than 20-30 samples are almost never required, and statistical significance is a pipe dream.
  • Exploit the Web and social media with care. Be sure you understand who crafted the message and for what purpose. Exercise due diligence.
When that a-hah moment arrives, you'll know you are (almost) done.


Doing Technology Assessment Right              
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     In my experience most people and organizations fail to perform this task in a
comprehensive   way. They omit something important that causes their net assessment
to be faulty -- sometimes catastrophic. We try to avoid doing that by defining as best
we can, in advance, the criteria   that could matter. If it turns out that some of these
criteria ultimately prove to be unimportant, so what? At least we'll have the
confidence that comes with having covered all the bases. The most common criteria
are listed here.

      Understand the technology's fundamental characteristics. What's it like? Is
it revolutionary, evolutionary, or a minor tweak on an existing method? Is it hard to
understand? Will its complexity be invisible to the user? The greater its obvious   complexity, the more difficult will be its adoption -- but the more dramatic might be its  commercial impact in the long run. And here's the wild card: Could you add your own  ideas or combine it with another technology that might greatly enhance its value in the  target application? That's a nice outcome, and it's especially rewarding if the  technology in question is sourced outside your firm.

      Judge all the attributes. What are all (not some of) the attributes that matter in
the intended application? How does the technology measure up in every case? What
user benefits and limitations will result? Demonstrating world-beating performance on
one measure is not enough; poor performance on a single important measure can
doom the new method. (I believe this is the most common cause of new-tech failure
in the market.)

      Understand the competitive landscape. Not market competition; technology
competition. What other methods are available or potentially imminent . Have you
really scoured all the potential sources: company intelligence, clinical literature,
scientific literature, patent literature? Analyzing all this stuff is not easy and often not
quick; it requires a very open mind and some technical savvy to imagine what might
be possible. In each case reach an objective judgement whether your technology is
better or deficient in some important way. Imagine each competitive method in the
hands of your most powerful competitor. Can you still win?

      Realistically judge development status. Is the technology at the idea stage, a
feasibility demonstration, a working prototype, a manufactured product, or what?
Obviously, its value grows substantially at each milestone. Does credible evidence
exist demonstrating performance on all important measures? If not, what will it take
to develop that evidence? Who will do that, and when will it be done? Meanwhile, who
will bear the risk of failure?

      Consider and respect intellectual property. This doesn't require elaboration.
You know it's important to assess your likely IP position in the technology realm of
interest from both defensive and offensive points of view. Without IP protection of
some kind you're probably dead in the water.

      Getting from here to there. How far is this new method from the market? What
steps will need to be taken? Who will take those steps; how long will it take; how
much will it cost? Will it all be worth it? While you cannot expect to develop accurate
answers to all these questions during technology assessment, surely you should come
up with your best, educated guesses. It's quite remarkable how often the answer to
the "is it worth it" question quickly becomes obvious -- one way or the other. One
more thing: Is the technology applicable beyond your field of interest? If so, consider
out-licensing or partnering to increase its ultimate value.

      Apply the right expertise. Finally -- here comes the commercial -- you cannot
always handle this job yourself. Some outside resources can be critical (if the
technology is sourced from outside) or helpful (if you developed the method in your
own shop) to achieving an objective, reliable result. Line up some experts who know
the territory and the right means. And, good luck!

Rapid Prototyping               
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     There's a recent book entitled "Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas  in Just Five Days" by three design partners at Google Ventures. Several years ago, one  of those partners developed sprint , a process that allows you to answer critical  questions through design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers.

     A five-day process? Really? That seems awfully aggressive, especially in my world
of medical products. But that's not really the point. Whether it's five days or five weeks
(probably not five months), I think this sprint  notion deserves your consideration. It
may be feasible, and it may offer some real advantages.

     On the fourth day of this presumed five-day process you hammer out a prototype
suitable for testing with prospective customers on the fifth day. An excerpt from the
book talks about this rapid prototyping process in a post entitled " The Prototype Mindset ". You aim to devise a prototype that is just good enough for customers to
accept it as real, without investing too much time building that prototype. (Does 3D
printing come to mind?)

     Perhaps the biggest problem with the usual prototyping process is that the longer
you spend working on something -- whether it's a prototype or a real product -- the more  attached you'll become, and the less likely you'll be to take negative test results to  heart. After one day, you're receptive to feedback. After three months, you're
committed.

     I think this sprint  approach is a fascinating notion, and I see little downside to
trying it out in your own world. That book just might be worth a read.
     
Who Do You Call ... to Assess Business Opportunities?               
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     Take my word for it; this is an important question. Because getting a handle on the
opportunities presented to your business is a critical matter. If you don't understand, if
you don't develop a clear picture, you will make serious - perhaps business-fatal -
decisions.

     So, what sources do you engage to pursue the truth? Not the "truth" you would like
to believe, but the real, unvarnished truth that will influence your success or failure.
Question: Who do you call?

     Seriously, if you want to properly and thoroughly assess your business
opportunities, you must tap a number of influential sources to understand your
working environment. Opportunity assessment represents a major portion of the
work we do at Trilogy Associates, much of that having to do with judging the likely
acceptance and commercial success of new products. And, we have time and again
observed that certain of these sources really matter a lot. These sources are revealed
in our pictorial and are summarized below:

      Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). These are the folks who are monitoring the pulse
of the future on a daily basis. They are also likely to be early adopters - or at least
early evaluators. You cannot fail to communicate with them.

      Users. These people already use a competitive, or at least similar, product. They
know first hand what's right with it and what's wrong with it. They have a clear
understanding of unmet needs. Those are your entry points.

      Non-Users. These folks don't know they need your new gadget or your new app.
They often represent the largest portion of your potential market. Tell them about
your new product. Ask for their reactions. Try to gage whether they would really
buy it, or why they would not.

      Competitors. Sure, they're unlikely to cooperate. But you must understand every
competitor (and potential competitor) out there and what they offer. Start with
something called the Internet. Read the trade press and the newswires. Mine their
websites. Figure out where you might fit.

      Gatekeepers. These are your "shadow competitors". They are administrators,
purchasing managers, accountants, and the like. They will keep you from making
a sale, and it often has something to do with money and/or the potential violation
of an existing buying relationship. If you do not understand their attitudes and
their influence, you're in for a nasty surprise.

      Payers. In most businesses these are the users and gatekeepers. But in medical
products businesses they are insurers of various kinds; in those markets they are
the real buyers. They reimburse the users and gatekeepers, so their influences are
magnified. But you already know that.

      Regulators. These are the surprising (or not so surprising) deal-killers. They might
regulate the environment, financial arrangements, or local codes and licenses. But
in medical products businesses they are the FDA and that agency's counterparts in
the UK, EU, Japan and elsewhere. It's best to understand and plan to meet their
approval requirements early on. But you already know that, too.

     Those are the key sources of information and influence that will affect your success.
Communicate with them, learn their opinions, attitudes and rules. Then -- and only then  -- move forward with confidence.

     One piece of advice: There is often an inordinate emphasis on the quantitative
economic value of a new initiative, i.e. the dollar value of the available market. Don't
get overwhelmed by that numerical game. What really matters are qualitative perceptions  and subtle judgments. You will recognize the signals of success when you hear them  (or not) from these critical sources.
     
Resources from our Archives 
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     Check out our Reading Room to view my published articles, presentations and white papers on a variety of topics.
 
     And, you can examine my Newsletter Archive of prior Trilogy Tidings (since February 2007).
 
What does Trilogy do? 
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     Trilogy Associates facilitates business growth and renewal through commercialization of new products, providing the following services:
  • Opportunity assessment
  • Business planning and enterprise growth strategies
  • New-product conceptualization, commercialization and marketing
  • Market research and competitive assessment
  • Business development and partnering
  • Market and technological due diligence
  • Assessment of the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of novel technologies
  • Design of efficient and effective development strategies for early-stage biomedical products
  • Business and technical writing/publishing

     Inquiries to establish whether and how we might support your business initiatives are always welcome.  Contact us.

Contact Information
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ContactInfoJoseph J. Kalinowski, Principal
919.533.6285
LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/trilogy
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