Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marketing is all about beliefs : believe me !

I promised in a previous post to speak of marketing, so here we are.
Before introducing marketing by itself, we must have a look into the notion of belief, as strange as it may look at first glance.

What are beliefs ?

What I call belief here is a set of statements everyone has in his (her) mind, most of the time unconsciously. I mean that if I were to ask you 'ok, list all your beliefs on this sheet of paper' you should be unable to write but, may be one or two sentences.
So what are these beliefs ?
How do I know that they exist in the first place ?

Well, there are situations where you may be able to discover some of. Typically when you encounter some unusual idea, say an idea which is in contradiction with at least one of your beliefs. In such a case, you are typically beginning to doubt : 'hum sound strange, should'nt be true ...' and here we are : take the counterpart of the strange idea and you should be close to unveil the corresponding belief. You may think to it like an underlying, not expressed assumption. Note that if you are to encounter an idea or a fact that is in correspondence with your system of beliefs, nothing will happen, you are not going to notice it at all.

Your set of beliefs is protected by an incorporated automatic alarm system ringing in your mind as soon as it perceives an incoherence.

This alarm system triggers a graduated response, switching to the upper level as necessary :

1- doubt, humor, indifference ... (the polite level, gentlemen stay at this level)
2- irony, sophism ... (not fair, high educated persons tend to switch here quite easily)
3- negation, anger, indignation, (rude : easy for boss, only disponible form for uneducated persons)
4- menace, commination ... (disgusting : particularly when used under the appearence of politeness)
5- violence (ultimate step)

Note that if one of your beliefs is under attack, you feel yourself threated !
This unconscious perception of your beliefs being questioned, rises up an emotion of fear and this is that precise emotion that triggers your response, upgrading itself as far as you don't get satisfaction, defeating the contradiction by doubt, irony, negation, ...

Let's take an example : when you read the title of this blog, what did you think ?
How did you rate on the graduated scale : 1, 2 ... ? (Tell me !)

Where do beliefs come from ?

Well, they obviously come from our education, culture, media, ...
I would say there are at least two main classes of beliefs :
1- those related to one's personal history
2- those instillated by the social environment and shared by a large number of people
We will focus on the second type ones.
In fact a society is continuously entertaining and creating new beliefs which are instillated through educative system, authorities, mass media. These believes are sealed by the social authority. Don't conclude that beliefs are voluntarily forged by any big brother : not at all, this is a basic social mechanism that is absolutely not consciously managed by anyone.
Nevertheless, the result is that, in a given society there is a continuous flow of unconscious messages which is more or less incorporated in everyone mind, added on the unconscious list of beliefs. This is some sort of neurological mechanism.

What it is good for ?

What the society is gaining by this is a sort of glue between people, it provides them some implicit basic common assumption that will serve as shared foundation for the communication.
When people are implicitly acknowledging beliefs in their communication they feel secured and inversely they feel endanger when they perceive their beliefs (either personal or shared) are questioned, just as if standing on a moving ground.

What's the relationship with marketing ?

Putting it simple, marketing is the art of instilling in the mind of your potential market the beliefs that are favoring your business.
You know that your marketing has succeeded when you realize that people feel endanger when they are not using your products, when they have to give explanations not to do so, explain to others, to their boss, to stockholders ...

Example of successful marketing

Some days ago, I was responding an internet poll about web development.
One of the question was about development environment in use in your company or that you were considering for future use : ajax, rose rational, J2EE, CORBA, .Net ...
I checked my choices then Next and then question :
'Why don't you use .Net ?'
(Note that I was not been asked why I was not using CORBA or other)
Underlying assumptions : (in other word : beliefs)
- 'you must have some special reasons not to use .net'
- 'normal people use .net'

Do you get the picture ? Tell me !

IT staffing entering commodity market ?

With the emergence of new brand of web recruitment sites, specially Blue Chip Expert, it has been pointed out that these systems were pushing the market of high competencies staffing to a commodity market and put quality aside.

Permit me a word about my own experience as independent IT contractor.

I'm on the market since more than 10 years as independent (before I ran my own company for 11 years) I always been successful in all my missions and make a point to have always done much more than requested, because in the first place I love my job, and it's a pleasure for me to give satisfaction.
From 1996 to 2005 (I've been working continuously for a large group from 2000 to 2005) I never had to look for a mission, clients called directly.
But since more than a year now, I struggle finding a mission. I realized that in fact I've no more access to my clients directly.

Every big company has constituted lists of agreed providers (major ones) and they don't want to agree any little company, not to speak of individuals ...
I do interpret this as the true sign of a commodity market.
Arrangements initiated now between professional purchasers and professional recruiters.
Neither the professional in need of competencies, nor the competencies by itself are given the opportunity to exchange directly.
I find myself facing recruiters who don't now a word of my profession, who are unable to explain what's their clients is looking for precisely and who mechanically go on with you through the typical interview guide with craps like "how do you behave under stress" and ending by "what would be your ideal job" ...

In this play they are going to choose the one they think the client should appreciate given what they supposed their client's criteria should be !
This buggy formulation is the equivalent of the sanity of the situation.
They are looking for magical words matching exactly the one on the list.
They are eliminating people who ask questions about the content of the mission.
They are eliminating older one's (with the presumption that new technologies could not be a thing understandable to the ones over 40)

That's the picture of how things are - most of the time - working in Europe, I don't know about other market places. (Feedback appreciated)
Not to speak of the prices : up to July 2005 I've been working for 680 € / day and now it's difficult to ask more than 450 € / day for similar mission.

So when something like Blue Chip Expert something appears, a lot of consultants will accept the idea because most of the recruitment companies are no more doing their job, they have accepted the commodity inflexion their clients have initiated on the market, the weaker they were, the most easily they have accepted and adapted to this degradation, this "decadence", envisioning this as the unique opportunity to survive.

A last word, about quality, they are many ways for considering it.
First, there is the intrinsic quality of each individuals consultants, at a given time it is what it is, I mean the market has to deal with it as it is at a given time.
This is to say that, whatever be the way demand and offer is matched, a mean quality will result depending of the mean quality of every stakeholders.

Now quality could be envisioned as the ability to improve : if this market has a bit of intelligence, it will try to coax interests, behaviors, knowledge toward desirable directions, it will take into account future and will want to capitalize on present actions in order to match the foreseen evolution, it will project itself with a goal, this attitude should be part of any stakeholders on any market, given one is aware of its extended responsibilities.

Surely system like Blue Chip Expert are not embarrassing themselves with such considerations, but today anyhow, this awareness seems the exception and is even becoming a handicap if you want to work.

In conclusion, regarding my personal situation, I feel kept apart of my natural market by a threatening organization, and enrolled Blue Chip Expert as an opportunity to escape this trap with the idea that it can't be worse than the way the market is working.

So YES I do think our formerly high end market has already turned - for a large part - to a commodity market.

Is it for the benefit of our economy ?

Just tell me !

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Technology Replacement Cycle

You surely remember the famous water cycle, don't you ?

I observed another type of cycle in IT technologies.
The different phases are as follow :
  • Top management decides to renew the infrastructure from scratch. (rain shower)
  • A project manager is then in charge of having these specifications enforced by some large so called "no risk" company to take charge of the implementation.
  • It will be decided invariably not to involve the internal operation team and to get rid of the old infrastructure to start from fresh.
  • Project will go on with essentially external contractors.
  • The all thing will got rolled out eventually and the project team will disappear.
  • Baby is passed in the arms of the operations team. The situation is complex and not documented in a way to be useful for the operations.
  • The new architecture will NEVER be really maintained, it will go on from its initial push, but the motion will slow down, the entropy of system will increase until :
  • Top management decides to renew the infrastructure from scratch. (rain shower)

Consequences of this brutal cycle :
  • Organization is never capitalizing its proper knowledges.
  • Organization is unable to improve by itself. (It's always supposed to be the best of the world)
  • Organization is adapting on a mutational mode. (A way of not adapting)
  • Organization has to support periodic period of difficult changes.
  • Investment is not incremental.
This is a significant sign of a non mature way of managing IT technologies.
Do you recognized your own organization ?

Tell me !

Most organisations prefer to die rather than to change

As a former Sociologist, I'm always very interested in the way organizations and societies are set up, how they are working, how they are managing the change.
In fact change is by itself a subject of great matter for me, and regarding Societies and even individuals, it seems that the matter with changing is much more the matter of resisting the change.
I do remember this quote from Wolfgang Langewiesche in "Stick and rudder" : "Most people prefer to die rather than to think", he was referring to pilots in a plane ...
Regarding societies, I should propose the following inflexion on Wolfgang insight : "Most organizations prefer to die rather than to change."

You may consider this assertion as rather paradoxical.

Take for example Information Technologies, isn't there a lot of changes ?
New things coming up every day or so ? How do I reconcile this with the above ?

Well, I see two main points :

  • lot of so called changes are in fact "more and even more and more of the same thing", it's really increasing, not changing.
  • lot of so called changes are not the fact of the human being will, they are the result of old organization's death, consequence of inertia.

Consider this last point (it was a real discovery for me) : a change, to be a change in its entire sense has to be the result of an intention, of a human will, otherwise it's only new facts mechanically taking place, out of your control.
Dealing with this type of change means that you are behind the change, you are a spectator. What you should rather prefer is to originate it, purposely, to be an actor.

Right ? Tell me !

NB : "Stick an Rudder" "an explanation of the art of flying" Wolfgang Langewiesche - 1944 MC Graw Hill - Still selling : the best book I ever read on the subject, a must to read if you are a pilot or if you want to learn some fundamentals about flying.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Behind the automatic door

I often dream of a town without cars, where most of the streets are 80 % garden and 20 % lanes for pedestrians and bicycles.
I often dream of a place much more simple than our so called developped countries, where so much things are so complicated, even a garage door become a burden, it must be automated and opening automatically upon receiving a signal at the arriving of the car : did you ever think about what all this stuff implies ?
Should it not be simpler to open the door manually ?
Do you really expect saving any time with this sort of arrangement, given the one (time) you spent to earn the money to buy the stuff and given all the hidden requirements for this to work : electricity generation, distribution, billing of the electricity, maintenance of the stuff, being stuck before the door when a problem occurs ... so having to plan what to do in such a case, like helpdesk number ... that you have to manage in a pocket PC, you had to pay for, which need battery to operate, maintenance again, wich you need to carry with you ...
Do you really think opening a door automatically is worth the burden ?
Doesn't that sound absolutely crazy to you ?
Tell me !

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Computer's archeology

Last week I reformed 2 old COMPAQ computers from an old client of mine.
They were messing up the machine room and I decided to get rid of them once for all. Nevertheless I accorded them some attention, like I should have done with old working horses before sending them to the butchery.
These machines has been used for years with NetWare 3.11 SFT III then NetWare 4.10 SFT III. For the youngers, SFT III stands for System Fault Tolerant, III being the upper level.
The principle was to create a virtual server upon two physical ones. The 2 computers were doing exactly the same thing and one of them was responding the client request after ensuring they were coherent. A pretty smart system. The 2 computers were linked with a dedicated high speed LAN connection, and that's the point I stumbled upon more particulary.

They were 2 LAN adpaters in each computer : a 10 Mb Ethernet link for the standard LAN attachement and a Thomas Conrad 100 Mb ARCNET adapter for the dedicated link. And guess what : first of I kept the TC cards for me as souvenir and second I would like to emphasize on the following :
  • both cards were manufacturated in 1994, EISA bus.
  • the Ethernet one was a full lenght card - remember the one that occupied all the place from front to back of a standard PC case - and it was full of chips, no room left at all on it !
  • the ARCNET one was a short one with one main chip and a plenty of room on it.
So what ?

Well, ARCNET technology is able to make circles around Ethernet.
It has been and it is a much more efficient technology, you can integrate it on some 25000 transistors or so far, against perhaps 250000 for Ethernet, beside ARCNET protocol (layer 2) is much more efficient and one which is precisely able to met isochronous requirements some traffic like voice are begging for.
In fact what is happening with Ethernet ?
The original layer 2 protocol CSMA CD is no more used, it is been killed by use of switchs in which we are desperately trying to incorporating - by sofware - the intelligence which is lacking to layer 2 protocol. What is left to Ethernet is a frame format, and layer I encoding and transmission.

What happened to ARCNET ? Why the technology almost disappeared if it were so good ?
But I don't want to mess up everythings, I will explain what marketing is really in another post.

Stay tuned !

Notice the gentleman on the upper right ?
It's John Murphy ARCNET Chief Architect, let pay him and his colleagues a little visit :
The photo Copyright © 2002 ARCNET Trade Association