Trilogy Tidings
December 2015
in this issue
     Strategy is, and will always be, important to your enterprise. I address three levels of strategy this month: Product positioning, scenario planning, and product design. Some of these levels focus on the present, others address near- and long-term futures. All are deserving of your time.


Focus Your New-Product Strategy              
     New-product commercialization activities are always exciting. There's an element of newness (obviously) and an element of potential vigorous revenue growth. Unfortunately there are also elements of uncertainty. Which is the best target market? Which users should we be selling to? How should we best position our offering relative to competition? How will future market scenarios affect us? What's the most appropriate price point, and can we "afford" that price? The list goes on.

       What to do? Typically, we engage in some research -- often rather expensive research. We talk to lots of actual and potential customers. We buy some syndicated study reports. We hire one or more appropriate experts and/or consultants. We interview "thought leaders" and other gatekeepers. Three to six months later we hopefully have all the answers we need - and we pay the bills.

     So, what's wrong with this approach? Maybe nothing - if you can afford the time and cost. If not, I have a better idea: Take a smarter incremental approach. Focus first on the issues that really matter to your "gut level" assumed strategy and conduct research on that first-choice strategy. If you identify flaws in that strategy, move on to your second choice and conduct more research. Step and repeat as necessary. This incremental approach is likely to cost less and take less time overall. (I shared an example of this dilemma and a proposed solution in a prior article.)
     One way to think about this problem is this: Avoid the "know nothing", brute force approach. Recognize that you already know quite a bit (or at least something), and apply that knowledge to hopefully pare down the amount of research that must be done before you are comfortable with a workable strategy. Your big, brand-name consulting provider will be disappointed. Don't worry; they will get over it.
Scenario Planning Still Makes Sense               
     One of the early tools of management consulting is the technique called scenario planning, the process  of visualizing (1) what future conditions or events are probable, (2) what their consequences or effects would be like, and (3) how to respond to, or benefit from, them. Most authors attribute the introduction of scenario planning to  Herman Kahn through his work for the US military in the 1950s at the RAND Corporation.
Scenario Planning
     There are plenty of available articles on the topic. One of my favorites was published by MIT Sloan about 20 years ago! Despite the age of this tool, it remains a useful one for long-term strategic planning. In some volatile markets it's every bit as useful for short-term planning, too. Although the process has some obvious limitations - like the bothersome difficulty of predicting the future - it can be quite useful in laying out and detailing a number of possible futures. Then you can examine what effects each of those futures might have on your business, which allows you to devise proactive strategies to deal with each of those potential effects.
     You might successfully argue that all the uncertainties of predicting alternative futures are likely to trip you up. But that's not what matters. We're not looking for a perfect analytical prediction; that's impossible. All we can expect from scenario planning is:
  • A definition of some market drivers that are likely to matter going forward
  • Speculation on what scenarios might emerge as a result of these market drivers
  • Assessment of how each of those scenarios would affect your particular business
  • Stimulation of alternative strategy-setting in response to each potential effect
     In essence, scenario planning gets you to think about the future of your business as part of some alternative, future market environments. Worthy of some effort, I think.
Design Elegance vs Ease of Use               
     A couple of early Apple designers complain that Apple has lost its way in product design. I think they are onto something.
Apple Design
     Bruce Tognazzini and Don Norman were employed as designers in the early Apple days circa 1993-1996. "Apple is destroying design," the duo wrote, calling out their former employer for trading in the fundamental design principles the company once held for a new minimalistic approach.

     I'm certainly not an industrial designer, but I am (like are you) a product user. And I much prefer intuitive ease of use over beautiful visuals. The latter are attractive features at the point of sale, which clearly have their place for consumer acceptance. But a user interface lasts forever and sows either appreciation or continued scorn. I'll take ease of use any day. You can judge for yourself if Apple offers that today. 
What does Trilogy do? 
     Trilogy Associates facilitates business growth and renewal through commercialization of new products, providing the following services:
  • Development and critique of business strategies and plans
  • Characterization of market drivers and adoption dynamics
  • Identification and evaluation of fitting technologies
  • Surveillance of competitors and emerging threats
  • Market-testing of development-stage product concepts
  • Assessment of clinical value and comparative economics
  • Support for partnering, acquisition and divestiture initiatives
  • Quick-turnaround M&A due diligence
  • Business and technical writing/publishing

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

Resources from our Archives 
     Check out our Reading Room to view my published articles, presentations and white papers on a variety of topics.
     And, you can examine an archive of my prior newsletters (since February 2007).
Contact Information
Joseph J. Kalinowski, Principal