Bulletin April 20 2018. The ever-closing window of opportunity

Of all the misunderstood concepts in IT, perhaps time is the most significant. I have already written about how technology refresh cycles are one of the most significant factors in technology change. A second dimension, so important but equally often ignored, is the speed of changing need. 

Don’t get me wrong, speed of change is a common theme. Organisations are constantly having their noses rubbed in the detritus of their own inertia. Change or die, isn’t that the phrasing? Which of course, conveniently plays into the hands of those who build their business on the notion of change. 

Enough said. But change for its own sake is not the issue here. Rather, the time between idea and reality is taxing for all organisations, technology vendors and service providers as much as end-user organisations. 

The fact that requirements change is familiar to many: indeed, it is what lies at the heart of what we variously call agile or dynamic software development practices. Do things quickly, deliver enough functionality for now, and you will get something into the field that actually meets its prior objectives. 

At the same time, opportunity has a decay curve. It’s not that the shape of the need changes; more that value of responding to it diminishes over time. Right now, for example, a whole number of AirBnB-related services are springing up. In two years time, not only will demand be met, but the world will have moved on. 

All too often, upstart organisations appear out of seemingly nowhere and grow their market cap at a phenomenal rate. They can do so through a kind of inverse version of the Swiss cheese model of system failure (HT Dave Cliff — it’s that thing where a number of unfortunate events coincide). 

Similarly at a certain times, a number of factors can align that create an opportunity, like floating lily pads on a pond. Cue early opportunists who skip gaily across, reaping the rewards of doing so before either the lily pads fall out of alignment, or they sink due to the weight of everybody doing it. 

While there’s no guarantee that a new opportunity will generate rewards, this is where the startup model differs from, say, trying to produce a hit record: in the former, you have to chance your arm and invest in something new. This means more than just being agile; rather, you have to have an unusually open attitude to risk — essentially, to be able to jump at each chance as it presents itself. 

To paraphrase the old adage, all it takes for such a well-intentioned attitude to fail is for a single person to blink. The moment anyone says, “wait, perhaps we should have a meeting about that,” the opportunity may already have passed. 

Just one article this week! And next week will be all about data. 

When is a startup pitch not a pitch? Retrospective thoughts on TechPitch 4.5

I was a judge at this event, this week. What a genuine privilege. And what a great opportunity to realise that some lessons need still to be learned from experience, however obvious they may appear to the (apparently) initiated. 

Extra-curricular: All The World’s a Stage

We are off to see Hamilton this week, and, thanks to the staggering donations from a local benefactor, we now have a high-class theatrical venuein our local town. In these technological times, you still can’t beat a live performance.

Bulletin April 20 2018. The ever-closing window of opportunity

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