Wednesday, December 28, 2011

8 Business Rules For People Who Don't Believe In Rules

Ronen Shilo the CEO of Conduit, described as one of Israel's largest Internet companies compiled these rules for in a FAST Company blog. 

1. Partner with people you’ve worked with before.
2. Believe in your core but don’t be afraid to change.
3. Don’t be shy about telling people they won’t fit.
4. Build your organization around the skills of talented individuals, rather than trying to find the right skill for a predefined job.
5. Try really hard not to give VCs control.
6. Leave your ego at the door.
7. Be honest about the consequences of growth.
8. Sharing success creates more of it.
go here for the full story.
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is Sony 3D Blu-Ray compatible with passive 3D HDTV? YES!

Updated Dec 4, 2011 - After my 2nd contact with Vizio tech support and my third contact with Sony Support and some additional trial and error, I was able to get the 3D blue ray to play with my passive Vizio 3D TV.   See the Dec 4 update below for how to do it.
Dec. 3, 2011 - I wasn't planning to buy 3D when I upgraded from by 10+ year old 32 inch (20th century cathode ray technology) TV, but the price and capability looked so attractive, I couldn't resist.  Now I'm wrestling with the challenge of getting a Sony 3D Blu-Ray to work with a Vizio Passive 3D TV. 

I bought a Sony BVD-E780W 3D Blu ray home theater in a box from Best Buy, but so far I can't play play the 3D Narnia Promotional Blu-Ray included with the home theater system on my Vizio E3D420VX passive 3D TV.    The Blu-Ray plays fine in 2-D, but won't play 3D.   After talking with tech support at both Vizio & Sony, and not getting a definite answer from either, I'm thinking that the Sony home theater requires an active shutter sync signal before it will play 3D Blu-Ray content.  I can play 3D content using the Sony online apps included with the home theater, so I think this limitation is associated with the integrated 3D Blu-Ray player.

It would be great to hear from anyone who has experience interfacing Sony 3D Blu-Ray to a passive 3D HDTV to find out if and how you got it working.

Here is what happens when I try to play a 3D Blu-Ray: After the introductory sequence and copyright notice the Blu-Ray menu says "play - set up - scene select". When I choose play, I get two choices, 3D or 2D. The default choice is 3D, but there is a pop up window that says: " This feature requires a Blu-Ray 3D player connected to a 3D display. Your Blu-ray player has not detected that it is connected to a 3D display. Please consult your Blu-Ray 3D player manual or player support website for more information."

At this point, if I am blocked from using the menu on the TV to select 3D mode.  The 3D mode is visible as shown below, not selectable at this point.  When I use the arrows on the remote to navigate the cursor highlight won't move to the 3D box.
There seems to be a communication stand-off between the TV and the Blu-ray at this point.  Vizio tech support told me that as soon as the TV senses 3D input, it will switch to 3D mode, but Sony says the player will not play 3D unless it detects a 3D TV.   Here is what the TV menu looks like at this point, but 3D is simply not selectable.  
My firmware is up-to-date on both the TV and home theater, and they are connected with a 10.2 Gbps HDMI cable.  I think the 3D TV & HDMI connection are OK because I can display 3D content from the Sony 3D Experience online app which is also part of the home theater system. Here are a couple of screen shots from the Sony 3D Experience online app.

Sony 3D Experience online App

3D content detected by the TV from the Sony 3D Experience App
When I select yes (switch to 3D) on the above screen using the remote for the 3D TV, I can put on the 3D glasses and view Sony's 3D demo clips.    
The integrated 3D Blu-Ray player seems to require a signal from the TV before it will play 3D.  The only signal I can think of that my TV isn't delivering is the active shutter sync signal, because it is a passive system. 

I'm no expert on home theater or 3D TV, but here are the reasons why I think the Sony 3D Blu-ray player may not be compatible with some passive 3D TVs:
1.  The Sony support website provides instructions on How to set up a 3D TV
Sony 3D TVs use an active shutter to synchronize the glasses.  I wonder if the Blu-Ray player is looking for the shutter synchronization signal before it will play 3D content.   

2. The box for the Sony BVD-E780W home theater does have a note that says:  "3D viewing requires 3D content, 3D HDTV and a high speed HDMI cable (supporting at least 10.2 Gbps) connection.  Other 3D accessories (including active 3D glasses) also required."   [emphasis added on active]
If this is the case, it seems like a simple firmware update could provide another setting on the Blu-Ray player to select support for a Passive vs. Active 3D TV.  If the passive TV setting it selected, The Blu-Ray player could bypass the synchronization check  before playing 3D content. 
Other notes:   Tech support ratings. 
I think Vizio Tech support is very responsive.  They seem to have an adequate number of knowledgeable techs available to answer questions in detail by online chat. 
I give Sony Tech support lower ratings than Vizio.  Submission of online questions is limited to 450 characters.   The wait is longer. Answers so far were more general and haven't addressed my specific situations.
I followed up with a sales person at Best Buy, who:
 a) Offered to sell me home theater installation, but said they are not familiar with Vizio because they don't carry that brand. 
b) Put me in touch with Sony phone support, which was more responsive than online, but not much more helpful or knowledgeable.
So far I didn't get definitive answers from anyone, which is why I'm posting this in hope that people out there have already solved this problem.  I'm considering returning some (or all) of this stuff if I can't get it working so your input/ideas would be helpful.  

Added Dec 4, 2011

Here is the support request I sent to Sony Support (my third contact with them on this case - with personal info removed for privacy)

Product Group: Sony
O/S          : Select Your Operating System
Model        : BDVE780W
Question    : ref EventID #E####### I can't get 3D on a Vizio E3D420VX passive 3D TV from the 3D Narnia Promo blu-ray provided with my BVD-780W home theater.  I think the 3D TV & 10.2 Gbps HDMI connection are OK because I can display 3D content from the Sony 3D Experience online app.  The integrated 3D blu-ray player seems to require an active shutter synch signal from the TV before it will play 3D.  Is there a firmware upgrade planned to fix this limitation?

Here is the response received from Sony - which is very close to providing the answer, but not quite right, and not enough to solve the problem.

 Thank you for contacting Sony Support.

I'm sorry that there in no 3D when playing back the 3D disc in the 3D Blu-ray Disc Home Theatre System. Based on the information you have provided, I suggest that you set BD output to 1080P. Please follow the steps mentioned below to set BD output to 1080P:

# Press the HOME button.
# Select Settings .
# Select Screen Settings .
# Select BD/DVD-ROM 1080/24P Output.
# Select Auto.
# Press Enter.

If the issue is unresolved, please contact our telephone support staff who will be happy to provide further diagnosis and assistance at: (800) 222-7669 or (239) 768-7669 Intl

Currently, I do not have any information on future firmware upgrade.

Thank you for your time.

If you would like to be the first to know about our latest products and receive exclusive offers, please sign up for our newsletter:

The Sony Email Response Team
 I looked at this setting when I received the above response, and found the BD/DVD-ROM 1080/24P Output was already set to "auto" . It didn't occur to me immediately to try setting it to "off", however, after 24 hours with no solution I decided to try turning that setting off to see what would happen, and guess what?  PROBLEM SOLVED!    Here is what the setting looks like on the screen.

Now when I play the 3D Blu-Ray, the menu comes up with 2-D or 3D.  I can select 3D, the TV auto detects 3D mode and I confirm.  I get a message to put on the glasses and I'm watching 3D Blu-Ray on my Vizio!    Next I'll to send this info off to Sony & Vizio to help the next person who runs into this issue, and I'll update my product review.

Ho Ho Ho!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount

Leonard Fuld at BPMA Sept. Meeting on Envisioning your Competitor's Strategy Map

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business we often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following:
1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Saying things like "This is the way we always have ridden this horse."
4. Harness several dead horses together in an attempt to increase the speed

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SAP Mastering The Cloud in 8 Easy Steps recorded webinars

SAP Mastering The Cloud in 8 Easy Steps webinar series.

Over the eight sessions, you heard cloud experts Kamesh Pemmaraju, who demystified the cloud with critical research insights, and Jeff Kaplan, who interviewed companies already leveraging the cloud to achieve their business goals.

To help you continue to benefit from this timely information, use the links below to access the recorded sessions and white papers. Please share this content with your colleagues.

Session 1: April 13, 2011 Beyond the Hot Air: What's really in the cloud? Hear Kamesh Pemmaraju of Sand Hill Group define the cloud and learn how companies like yours are already leveraging the cloud. White Paper

Session 2: April 20, 2011 Cloud Insider: Beyond the Hot Air: Jeff Kaplan of THINKstrategies talks with Sina Moatamed, former CIO of BendPak Inc. White Paper

Session 3: April 27, 2011 Cloud Benefits 101: What's in it for you? Kamesh Pemmaraju explains the cloud benefits in store for your company. White Paper

Session 4: May 4, 2011 Cloud Insider: What's in it for you? , Jeff Kaplan presents implementation success strategies from Eric Brown, CEO of Johnson Products Company, who achieved his start-up mandates within 90 days - in the cloud. White Paper

Session 5: May 11, 2011 Roadmap to Cloud Success: How to get there? Kamesh Pemmaraju defines eight mission-critical steps for mapping your route to success in the cloud.

Session 6: May 25, 2011 Cloud Insider: Roadmap to Cloud Success. Neil Briggs, CFO of WL Plastics, shares his roadmap to cloud success with Jeff Kaplan. White Paper

Session 7: June 1, 2011 Competitive Edge in the Cloud: Is the sky the limit?. Kamesh Pemmaraju recaps Steps 1- 6 and advises that a long-term cloud view is your ticket to riding this next massive economic and technological wave to ongoing growth and success. White Paper

Session 8: June 8, 2011 Cloud Insider: Competitive Edge in the Cloud. Jeff Kaplan asks Greg Dunn, CFO of Sambazon, about the innovative strategies that are enabling Sambazon to surpass business boundaries in the cloud.

Monday, June 13, 2011

convience strore pricing at the supermarket drove me online

I never would have guessed that an offer for free shipping on a trailer hitch would have been the straw that motivated me to buy chili powder online rather than from my local supermarket.

I make a wicked mexican chili bean salad. The recipe has been available on this blog since 2007, although it's been refined over time. I never make it twice exactly the same, but chili powder is always a key ingredient, and a large batch takes 1 to 1.5 ounces of chili powder.

Did you ever wonder why you can buy 2 liters of soda at the supermarket for the same price as a 12 oz can from the cooler at a convienience store? Convienience. Convienience stores know that most of us are willing to pay more when we want it cold and ready to drink. I almost always buy soda from the supermarket, and keep a mini - fridge stocked in the basement. I rarely buy it from a convienience store, but that is a different story.

Since I go thorugh a lot of chili powder, I realized a while ago that my local grocery stores have been making huge profits by charging rediculous prices for small jars of cooking spices, including my beloved chili powder. I started shopping around a while ago, and found much larger containers are available, at very reasonable prices but, not where I shop. My store used to stock a 4 oz container of chili powder, which were priced just a little more than the 2.5 oz, and I bought them whenever they were available, however they must have realized the larger containers were cutting into their profits and eliminated them. I've asked about larger containers at the grocery store from time to time, but was told they don't stock them. For a long time, I wasn't inclined to order a monster size chili powder online. I didn't want to pay the shipping, and it just wasn't on my mind until I was making bean salad and found I was out of chili powder, so I just kept running out to the store and paying the rediculous price.

Then something happened. I bought a new vehicle, and needed to order a trailer hitch for it. While shopping at Amazon, I was offered a free 1 month trial of Amazon prime, with free 2nd day shipping for a year at a fixed fee of $79. I figured, with the price of gas, it wouldn't take long to make up the cost of running around shopping, and the savings on shipping the trailer hitch alone were substantial, so I went for it.

It happended again this week, I went to make bean salad, and found only about half an ounce of chili powder in the house. I finally said enough it enough. I ordered 2 16 oz jars of Durkee chili powder for $13.58, with free 2nd day shipping from Amazon and it showed up here 2 days later. My wife, VJ, stopped in the grocery store yesterday, and told me the usual 2.5 oz jar of chili powder was just under $5, and this was for the store brand, not some fancy gourmet brand, so I was pleased that she left it on the shelf.

I can't wait to taste the bean salad with the sweet taste of my bargain priced chili powder. I bet it will be much better than the rip-off grocery store powder becasue at less than a fourth of the cost per ounce, I won't be choking on the price.

Now that I'm over the online grocery hurdle, who know what additional business my local supermarket will lose? And all becasue of a trailer hitch...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

4 key Steps to Pricing

Nice overview of pricing methodology from Jim Schuchart on the MIT Entreprenurship Review.

1. Identify Alternatives: What is the next best competititive alternatiive? Sometimes the compeition is not making any investment in this issue.

2. Quantify Your Superiority: Use simple math. (the simpler the better) Apply basic, but conservative assumptions that are easy to understand and difficult to refute. Don’t worry too much about perfecting the numbers, just be conservative. Roughly right is better than precisely wrong. As you move forward, customer conversations, annual reports, pilot programs, and field tests will help refine the inputs. The important thing is to understand how we are driving value, and roughly how much it is worth.

3. Acknowledge Your Deficiencies: Your story must be fair and believable to gain traction, and a key step is to acknowledge that the next best competitive alternative may have some advantages. The analysis looses credibility if the audience thinks we didn’t look at the entire picture. Consider the cost of switching from the incumbent solution as a deficiency.

4. Put it Together and Capture Your Value: In most cases, you’ll have multiple positive and negative drivers to consider, but for now we’re keeping it simple. So now what?

If we are more valuable than the competitive offer, their price is a hard floor for our offer. Anything below this number leaves money on the table and can lead to dangerous price wars. Our ceiling is that differentiation plus the price of the next best competitive offer. Above this price you are asking your customer to make an economically irrational decision.

This approach creates a pricing band – from floor to the ceiling, and the range may be quite large. Decisions on how to share that value creation band with your customers (e.g. where to set your price) depend on company strategy, industry dynamics, and degree of innovation. In mature and highly competitive markets where innovation happens on the fringes, companies typically capture 10% of the differential value. More aggressive companies who focus on profit or operate in younger markets often captured roughly 30% of the net differential value. In some cases, such as highly innovative products where psychological drivers are in play or unquantifiable pain points exist, nearly 100% of that value can be captured.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kohl's Kiosk - interesting idea, many issues remain

I've been a fan of Kohl's for a quite a while,. They've been my primary source for sneakers for many years. Their quality and selection are way above Walmart, without the pricey "brand attitude" of say Macy's. I've been reluctant to buy sneakers online because I really want to try them on before buying. Recently however, as the inventory seems be more tightly managed, I've had trouble finding my size and style, especially during promotions, when stock gets depleted quickly. I've never ordered online from Kohl's because I don't like to pay shipping, so I've often delayed footwear purchases until I find my size during a sale. When I do find them, I've been known to buy more than one pair, because I don't mind stocking up when I'm getting a good deal. Recently, our local Kohl's store introduced a kiosk where you can order online and have it shipped to your home (or anywhere) with no shipping charge. Frequently I shop online from home and take advantage of free in-store pick up to avoid shipping charges.

I was shopping for sneakers today at Kohl's and found a style that I liked at a good price. Unfortunately, there was no 1o.5 wide available. I tried on size 10 wide - it was not bad, but a little short. I tried the 11 wide, it was definitely loose in the heel. I decided I would give the kiosk a try to get my usual 10.5 wide. I had a little trouble with the responsiveness of the touch screen, and finding the wide sizes wasn't completely intuitive, but I managed to get them into my cart. I navigated to check out, and realized I had 2 pair in my cart, a 10.5 regular, and a 10.5 wide. I deleted one and then scanned my Kohl's charge card; however, I then realized I had deleted the wide, and was about to order the regular, so I tried to go back before completing the check out, and got this:
bluemartini anyone? I pressed the button for assistance, heard a page, "Customer Assistance to the Kiosk in shoes." Reassured, I waited...., and waited. The page repeated. "Customer Assistance to the Kiosk in shoes." I waited some more. While waiting, I tried the home button, which was still visible at the bottom the screen. I tried the exit button. Neither responded. So I used the brick and mortar exit.

Closing thoughts. I would be a lot more inclined to buy from Kohl's online if I could do it from home with free or low cost shipping. Shipping to the store is preferable to me because I can pick up the order at my convenience. I certainly wouldn't wait in line to use their in-store Kiosk. I'm sure they figure if they can get people into the store many will buy something else while there. Have you ever waited for someone to pick a movie from Redbox? How long would you stand there waiting to use the in-store kiosk, while a clown like me tries to figure it out? Do you want an audience of fellow shoppers looking over your shoulder at the big screen while you shop online? Have you tried in-store online shopping? What did you think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where does pricing power come from?

Warren Buffet was quoted recently as saying:

The single most important decision in evaluating a business is pricing power. If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business... The extraordinary business does not require good management.

So what is pricing power? The ability to raise prices without loosing business.

Where does it come from? Pricing power derives from many sources. Bloomberg cited Buffet's holdings in railroads and utilities, which derive pricing power from their dominant market position. Buffet also has stakes in consumer companies like Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft with powerful brand appeal that attracts and retains customers. Businesses that serve value oriented customers who demand more than brand appeal and those without high barriers to entry rely on innovation, quality, extraordinary customer service, operational excellence, and value to achieve pricing power.

Bottom line: Pricing power is an indicator of a good business, but isn't the cause which makes a business great. History is replete with stories of titans laid low by disruptive upstarts, so I wouldn't discount the need for good management even in extraordinary businesses.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How NOT to label products

I hate it when I buy something, take it home, and find I have to struggle with irremovable product labels. Note to Boise Cascade, Home Depot, and anyone else who is listening... If you are going to sell AB Plywood, put the #%&@! label on the B side, not the A side.

I'm paying extra to get a clean finish for my project. Do you think that means I want to spend 15 to 20 minutes scraping off your UPC that seems permanently glued near the middle of the sheet of plywood?

You would hope they would know better!
Now I feel better.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diane Rheme interviews Eduardo Porter, author of "The Price of Everything" listen

Diane Rheme interview with Eduardo Porter, member of The New York Times's editorial board, and author of "The Price of Everything" Podcast - I bought the book becasue of my interest in pricing, but it's much more about value and values. [~ 50 minutes of great listening]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Advice on Freemium Software Pricing

Andy Singleton, founder and CEO of Assembla a SaaS provider gives an in-depth summary of experience with software pricing terms.

Secrets Of Freemium Pricing: Make The Cheapskates Pay

The post provides practical priorities for pricing, and many other pricing nuggets.
The number one goal: Maximize Revenue
The number two goal: Reduce Cost of Sales

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recovering from information overload: McKinsey Quarterly

Always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy.
JANUARY 2011 • Derek Dean and Caroline Webb

My favorite quote from the article:
"Multitasking is not heroic; it’s counterproductive."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ann Deavere on hope & determination (heard on NPR)

Philosopher Cornell West, according to Ann Deavere: Hope and optimism are different. Optimism, you look out the window, you say it looks pretty good out there. Hope says it doesn't look good at all. It doesn't look good at all. Evidence doesn't look good at all, but I'm going to go beyond the evidence, and create new possibilities based on vision, become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against odds, no guarantee whatsoever, that's hope.

Ann Deavere on rodeo bull rider Brent Williams" Think about it, we shouldn't be able to stay on top of bulls trying to buck you off cause we weigh like a hundred fifty pounds bull weighs over 2,000 pounds. but I think what keeps you on top of that bull is determination, something in side you.

Toughness is when you meet that thing that is going to defeat you, how do you ride that bull? The thing that keeps you going is this understanding that we are small, that we weigh a hundred fifty pounds, but the bull... What keeps you going is determination. And the determination is hooked into a belief that if you keep going, if you struggle, something really beautiful is going to happen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Duncan Jones of Forrester on Pay-per-use Software Pricing

Duncan Jones of Forrester Research focuses on software pricing and licensing and helps clients understand and address the effect of technology changes on software contracts.

Pay per use provides flexible, on-demand services, suitable for temporary needs, but is not suitable for regularly used applications. Jone's concerns include:

  1. Complexity to define and track. How to measure time-based or transactional usage reliably?
  2. Unpredictable and uncontrallable. How to prevent an unexpected, unbudgeted bills at the end of the month?
  3. Expensive. Some people assume that it'll be cheaper if they only pay for what they actually use. That's an incorrect assumption. The per hour rate will always be sufficiently more than the per year rate to push customers to the latter. Price is driven by negotiation leverage and competition, not the licensing model.
  4. Counter-productive. Software vendors want people to use the tools you've made available, so why create a cost disincentive by making customers wonder, before starting an application, "How much will this cost?"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jim Collins Good to Great

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies — how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested over a decade of research into the topic, Jim has authored or co-authored four books, including the classic BUILT TO LAST.

Executives spend too much time wordsmithing vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, and aspiration statements—and nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the values and visions already in place.