Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Framing The Ambiguous

I love frameworks.... Learning new ones, applying them, and creating ones in ambiguous territory. Frameworks are part of the toolkit that allows me to jump off a cliff, and make up the water on the way down, when taking on new challenges.

Frameworks help take concepts that appear cloudy and make them clear. I remember early in my consulting career having some colleagues that worked on organizational change management. I remember thinking that must have been a 'fuzzy' job, comforting employees through a change, but a couple years ago, I decided to expand my knowledge base in this area, and got certified with Prosci on their change management methodology. Wow! - a framework for helping people adjust to change! And it worked - it helped get a handle on what needed to be done and how to make it efficient. What makes frameworks great is that they aren't a recipe on how to do something (which is why some people don't like them), but it gives you a point of reference and then allows you to adjust for your needs and fill in the details.

I have started looking for modern frameworks around organizational design, business models and business strategy, in a knowledge based economy which are often hard to find, since it is a shift from traditional thinking on business strategy.

I have came across a great framework or ontology for business modeling recently by Alex Osterwalder, who has a consulting company called Business Model Design. I have found that the term 'business model' is often a loaded, and over-used term. People use it for many different things. Alex has a great summary of what a business model is and a framework for analyzing and creating business models. There is also an excellent case study of applying the framework to analyzing the Skype business model. His site also links to some interesting business modeling tools, which I am currently experimenting with.

With the technology startup I am working on, this discovery has came at the right time. I have been looking for a mechanism to describe our business model via a simple framework. As with many technology startups, the business model is often hard to describe to potential investors since they are operating in a non traditional space. (It would be much easier if we were selling running shoes.) I am attempting to utilize this model to not only clarify our model but also use it to compare against our competition and potentially complimentary models.


Dr1v3r said...

I love your metaphor "jump off a cliff, and make up the water on the way down", one to remember.

In June last year I became the founding member of a team set-up to control and document a business operating model. One thing became clear very quickly: This is an immature science (art?) and little groundwork exists.

We started off using Powerpoint to describe how our (large multinational Bank) functions, but quickly lost patience with the 'flat' nature, and the difficulties in interrogating it to extract information. Then in December I saw mindmapping software from Mindjet .

We are now in the throes of creating a vast map which can be filtered in many ways. Our executive loves it, and it does what we need it to, for now at least. I'd urge you to have a look - there's a free demo and a free viewer for your customers.

(I have no connection with the company - simply an impressed user).

Kevin Donaldson said...

No need to sell me on Mindmapping software. At my last company I also got us a few copies of the software from Mindjet, and it was extremely valuable from the executive level down to project team work. The only issue we had was the fact that you needed a projector, which wasn't always available in every conference room.
Best regards,