Monthly Archives: March 2004

The final countdown

The final day of the seminar, March 30 2004, featured a panel debate on the theme Where is the Internet going and what will the killer applications for retailing, banking, and customer service be?. On the panel were Susan Duggan of the Silicon Valley World Internet Center, Paul Oh of Sun Microsystems, and Philip Gordon from Haas School of Business. The discussion was led by Peder Inge Furseth from the Norwegian School of Management BI.

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A department store online

Macy’s.com
Gene Domecus, SVP/CFO at Macys.com
Summary: Overview of history and strategy for an on-line part of a company that pursues a differentiated strategy, with only parts of the assortment of the regular stores available online. Good experience observations on what it takes to build a solid and popular web online store.
(notes for this posting were taken by Mats Flatland)

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Innovation management is really easy

Creating Innovation
Dr. Philip Gordon, Executive Director, Fisher Center of IT and Marketplace Transformation, Haas School of Business
UC Berkeley

March 30, 2004
Summary: Philip presented a framework of how to manage innovation – and maintained that managing innovation is, in fact, not hard.
(notes for this posting were taken by Mats Flatland)

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Exit information assymetries

The Power of Information: How the Internet destroys and creates profit opportunities
March 26, 2004
Florian Zettelmeyer, Associate Professor, Haas Marketing Group, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
Summary (and conclusion): Profitability in the information age can no longer rely on customer knowing the market less well than firms do. Instead, profitability results because firms know the customer better than the market does.

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B2C, B2B, and what we learned from the dot com boom

New Perspectives on Innovation for Retailers and Banks
John Freeman, Helzel Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
March 26, 2004
Summary: This was a look-back on the dot com bubble and an analysis of what venture capitalists are looking for in a startup company as opposed to what type of innovations corporations are good at. Key remark: “Retailing is as much theatre as it is commerce.”

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MacReady?

I am writing this using a Powerbook G4 17” at the Apple store in San Francisco, a “flagship” store with lots of very neatly looking technology. Came here to look for the new mini-iPods, they’re not available but the G4 is.
It is a handsome machine, but there are some idiosyncracies that can be infuriating until you get used to them. The keyboard is excellent, the machine is heavy, and the front plate large enough that my watch is scratching it, even when standing. Not that that hasn’t happened on my regular Toshiba machine, but still, it would probably mean not wearing a watch while typing.
The screen is outstanding – wide and sharp. I suppose my best bet would be the 15”, just because of the size. Then there are applications.
The trouble with Apple products remain price/performance, the fact that they require quite a few accessories that are pricey (but elegant), and perhaps lack of applications, though that shouldn’t be much of a problem with emulation. The visuals, on the other hand, are stunning, and according to a friend of mine, who bought an iMac for his children, that’s the only machine they use.
Next time, perhaps. This machine is really elegant….

Visit to Microsoft’s Technology Center, Mountain View

March 26, 2003
This session was a presentation of Microsoft’s retail vision, as well as a tour of one of Microsoft’s Technology Centers in Mountain View.
Microsoft is positioning itself in the retail systems market, the activity is headquartered in Charlotte with representation in Europe. $1b business in retail and hospitality industry. The focus in the industry is on differentiation Ė WalMart eats everyone up – in California they will have 40 hypermalls by 2008. Retail model is changing from a mall model more towards superstores and online reatiling.
Microsoft’s offerings in this area, which contained many acronyms nicely displayed on blue boxes, were divided into three main categories: Smarter shopping, tools to enhance the in-store shopping experience. Smarter selling, tools to create sharper sales people, and Smarter operations. Microsoft is active in supporting a number of standards and tries to position their service tools, Biztalk, and various terminals together to offer a complete and fairly open solution. The competition from Open Source software was apparent – the speaker was keen to stress that Microsoft would work with anyone and anything in the retail area.
The Microsoft Technology Center was primarily used for three things: Scenario-based demonstrations for non-technical audiences of what Microsoft systems could do (in a showroom tableau’ing a company with a San Francisco and Hong Kong office); Small design rooms for scoping out and designing applications, and Proof-of-Concept application development projects. This was run on a number of different server and storage platforms, including Intel Itanium 64-bit processors.

Kirthi Kalyanam on Multi-Channel Retail Strategies

Multi-Channel Retail Strategies
Kirthi Kalyanam, J.C. Penney Research Professor, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University
March 26, 2004
Summary: Hands-on talk with a stage framework of multi-channel sophistication and good case examples. Key message was that you need not only to have an integrated multi-channel strategy, but move on to leverage one channel to another and then onto optimizing the two channels together. Very well received.

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Gartner on Integrated CRM

Online Channel: Best Practices For Integrated CRM
Adam Sarner, CRM Analyst, Gartner
March 25, 2004
Summary: eMarketing and sales becoming more integrated, moving from tools to suites, main thrust is in using the online channel to inform and influence the off-line channel.
Three main points:
– eMarketing and sell side eCommerce is coming together: Focus on message, not just operation
– the online channel is an important enabler of offline activity
– users should shift from low level tools built on top of platforms to packaged applications and custom configurations

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Multi-channel transformation: Monica Gout on Gateway’s web integration

The Multi-Channel Experience: Understanding the Role of Your Channels
Monica Gout, VP of e-commerce for Gateway
Summary: A case of multi-channel transformation – taking a company from direct seller of PCs through product diversification to home computing and media integration.

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Best of Europe? Robert Nickerson on European eCommerce Systems

An Assessment of European eCommerce Systems
Robert Nickerson, Professor, San Francisco State University
March 24, 2004
Summary: Report of study of a number of European eCommerce sites, compared to best in class. Good discussion of what is important on web sites. Some comments on three Norwegian sites.

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Big enough, fast enough? John Freeman on the Silicon Valley entrepreneurship model

Silicon Valley: An Innovative Business Area.
John Freeman, Helzel Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.
March24, 2004
Summary: Introduction to the Silicon Valley and how the entrepreneurship works here. Key is growing companies so that they get large enough, good enough, fast enough – so they can compete when the giant companies decide they want to get in. John has a background in sociology and has observed the Silicon Valley since the early 90s. Very interesting talks, laying out how the Valley works and why it is hard to copy to another place – say, Norway.

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Sears Fine Foods is no more

Now in San Francisco, I had looked forward to eating at Sears Fine Foods on the Powell St. side of Union Square – and then it turns out it is closed! The sign on the outside says “grand reopening Spring 2004” but the outlook is not great. This thing had been around since the 30s. Naugahyde chairs, 1970s carpeting, Formica all around, veteran waitresses in short skirts and trainers, oceans of coffee in thick China mugs, and a heap (18) small pancakes with butter and maple syrup for breakfast. People just don’t seem to appreciate the authentic side of American dining anymore (though, the place has always seemed to do a roaring trade to me).
There is, of course, Lori’s up the street, but that feels more like the set of Grease than the real thing (though the food is good there, and the selection much wider). It seems the owner of Lori’s has bought Sears and will reopen it at some point. Let’s hope so, this healthiness thing has gone too far…..
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Update: On the seminar’s final day, I had breakfast at Cafe Mason, on Mason St. between Geary and O’farrell, and my confidence in the Gread American Diner Tradition was restored. Orange juice thick with meat and a really zinging Eggs Benedict. What a relief….

Speeeeeeed reading

Author Cory Doctorow (blogging at boingboing.net) has had one of this books (Eastern Standard Tribe) converted into an automatic speed reading applet based on a technology from The Reading Lab.
The words race by on screen, one by one, in your speed of choice. Presumably this enables you to read faster and retain more, though I must say I am a bit sceptical after trying for a while. For complex sentences it can be hard to retain the meaning – and I tend to read more than one word at a time, which is not possible in this format (apparently, the Media Lab has something that allows you to “drive” a book in various formats.) But the effect is rather fascinating, and with some practice I assume one can effortlessly absorb more text simply because you don’t need to move your eyes as much.
But I am reminded of Woody Allen’s “I took a course in speed reading and read War and Peace in one hour. It’s about Russia.”

Blogging B2C 2004

From March 24-30, I will be in San Francisco as co-arranger, speaker and discussant in a seminar titled Innovation and eBusiness in Retailing, Banking, and Consumer Service Companies, arranged by my very capable and utterly self-effacing colleague Peder Inge Furseth and yours truly (though I should underscore that Peder Inge does by far most of the work). (Click here for glossy PDF brochure and here for the seminar agenda).
This is the 4th time this seminar is arranged. I participated the last time (in 2002), and am really looking forward to an interesting time with good presenters and discussion, a chance to explore a number of eCommerce-proficient companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and to try to translate what we hear into a Norwegian context. The seminar participants come from a selection of retail, banking and service companies in Norway, all of them directly involved in electronic commerce.
One of my tasks during this week will be to conduct daily debriefing sessions with the participants, exploring what we have heard and seen and what we can learn from it. I will try to do that through this blog, with daily (I hope) posts under the category “Travel reports – SF2004”. I want this to be an excercise in abstraction, learning and blogging with the added bonus of letting participants or anyone else comment and discuss.
To the participants: See you in San Francisco!

If you are what you read, then I’m in trouble

Last week, when botanizing for something to while away the time flying home, I came across Dale Carnegie‘s How to win friends and influence people. Halfway remembering a comment by a professor of organizational psycology about this actually being a good book, I bought it.
It is, at least, an interesting book, both in itself and in the place it occupies. It is, as far as I know, the first really modern self-help book, and the Carnegie Institute (or whatever its name is) is still around, preaching the principles of Carnegie to all and sundry. The book’s message is deceptively simple: You can win friends and influence people by listening to them and behaving nicely – and the easiest way to do that is to actually mean it.
Despite the cheesiness, I like this book, mostly because the author writes very straightforward and without conceit. He does not try to cloak his argument in mysticism or displaced science. Instead, he sets up a principle for each chapter, then piles on the stories of famous people or course alumni who successfully or unsuccessfully have tried to apply it. No metaphors, no frameworks, just stories. Simple. In principle.

These are real people we are talking about here….

Daniel Pink has written a wonderful article about offshoring IT work to India in Wired 12.02. It shows all those things you know and argue about: That Indian programmers are not working in sweat shops, but earning many multiples of average Indian salaries – at CMM 5 levels of quality. That outsourcing in the long run will benefit Western economies – but that individuals will suffer in the short run. And most of all, that we are talking about real people here, with no villains and no way to get the genie back in the bottle.