Using Old Technology to Win Product Battles

Newer, faster, shinier – these are all things that every product manager wants their product to be. Our hearts are filled with product lust when we see other products, in our space or not, that have the latest & greatest bells and whistles. Oh if only our product could have that cool new technology also. Hang on a minute, it turns out that our products might actually be more successful if they don’t have that cool new technology…

Life Support For Products
If we can get over that new technology lust thing, then perhaps we can talk rationally about this. It turns out that if you really want to help your company’s bottom line, then what your product might really need is incremental innovation, not revolutionary innovation.

I’m not a dreamer – I know that VHS tapes, typewriters, and CRT televisions are not going to be making a sudden comeback anytime soon. The harsh, cold reality is that the technology that your product is based on is eventually going to up and die one day. A product manager’s job is to realize this and to attempt to push that day off into the future as far as he / she possibly can.

Harvard’s Dr. Mary Tripsas has looked into just how this can be done. She believes that product managers can work to proactively manage the innovation endgame.

What this means for your product is that continuing improvements to extend the life of its technology, particularly once you realize just how attractive the profit margins on the old technology are, can be a wise business decision – and not necessarily a reflection of narrow-mindedness of a product manager who is unwilling to see the future.

Making The Technology Jump – Or Not
Ultimately a product manger is responsible for the success of his / her product. When it comes to the technology that the product is build using, the product manager’s #1 goal has to be to find ways to extend the life of the product while still continuing to make the maximum amount of profit.

As a new technology arrives on the scene, the product manager needs to keep the old product alive long enough that the company can design, develop, and launch new products that contain the new technologies. The key is to finding out HOW to go about doing this.

Customers Come First
The secret to knowing how best to time your jump to a new technology is to watch your customers. Our customers come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different levels of tolerance for dealing with the risk that new technologies can bring to the table.

What you need to realize as a product manager is that your customers are all going to be moving at different speeds. Sure, some will start asking about a new technology the first time that they read about it in a trade rag; however, the vast majority of your customers are more focused on running their business than what technology your product is built on.

Generally, adopting a product that is built using new technology will require a little or a lot of investment on your customer’s part in order to be able to support the new technology. The larger the investment, the longer most of your customers will want to put off making it.

How Product Mangers Can Balance Both Worlds
It is the responsibility of the product manager to come up with ways that your customers can gradually move into the future using new technologies on their own schedule.

One way to do this is to borrow ideas from the new technology and start to incorporate them into the existing old technology product in order to extend its life. An example of this would be the Toyota Prius. It’s really a gasoline car that has a battery that it can use some of the time. The world is not quite ready for an all electric car and so by adding new technology to the type of car that we already have we will be able to get a little closer to the future.

Old products can also be used to create a bridge that will allow customers to travel to the future. These types of products combine elements of both old and new technologies. I own a great example of this type of product: a hybrid VCR / DVD player. As DVD players started to take over the market, I was hesitant to get one because of the enormous investment in children’s movies on VHS tape that I had made. However, the VHS / DVD combo player was the perfect solution for me – I could continue to play my VHS tapes while at the same time I could start to buy DVDs.

Final Thoughts
Product Managers don’t have to rush to incorporate every new technology into their products. Instead, understand your customer and learn when THEY need new technologies to be made available to them.

In the end, a product manager needs to keep a careful balance between the technologies that his / her product currently uses and the new technologies that are arriving on the scene. Your career and the ultimate success of your company depends on the success of new products, but they have to be funded by making keeping your current products successful.

Don’t think of your older products as being so-called “cash cows” that exist to be milked of their profits until they can be discarded. Instead, view them as stepping stones to future products that should be maintained and upgraded for as long as is reasonable in order to maximize profits while at the same time buying the firm time to get products that use the new technology right.

Product managers who can balance the arrive of new technology with extending the life of products that use older technology will have have found yet another way that great product managers make their product(s) fantastically successful.

Dr. Jim Anderson has been a product manger at small start-ups as well as at some of the world’s largest IT shops. Dr. Anderson realizes that for a product to be successful, it takes an entire company working together. He’ll share his insights and guidance on how to make your products a fantastic success.

Effects of Emerging Technologies on the Society

Advancement in technology has made the world go “gaga”. As far as technology is concerned, you can expect the unexpected or imagine the unimaginable. The world has left the stage of crude implementation. Every facet of life has been touched and affected by technology. The bewilderment of everyone is that existing technologies are fast becoming obsolete by the day; courtesy of advancement in technology. This article discusses the effects of emerging technology on the society.

Technology has affected and is still affecting people of all age brackets from all over the world. You can imagine the formats in which toddlers’ toys and items for old people are made these days. They are given touch of modernity to let them have the feel of the innovations the mind of the human person is capable of.

Internet Technology

Let us begin with Information Technology. Gone are the days when people melted for fear of where to get information or data for their usage. Whatever information you think you need has been well written out for you on the Internet. “Internet is the world on the computer”. The internet has a wealth of information on every area of human endeavour. It is a safe place of consultation or reference for students as well as professors. The internet is a place individuals and enterprise run to locate the information they need. For instance, when you need any service, just log into the Internet, and you will see one million and one individuals and organisations who render such services. Whatever it is you need, you can find it on the internet.

The world wide web as an aspect of technological advancement, has made the production and sharing of information a breeze. With the proper use of the internet, businesses that took “ages” to be accomplished are now executed within a twinkle of an eye. Even though the internet has numerous advantages, it has some disadvantages too. A lot of unhealthy materials are available on the internet. And these to the detriment of innocent minds. In as much as good people post relevant information on the net for the use of those who need them, people with bad intentions also post harmful materials on the internet. Materials on how to indulge in bad things abound on the internet. This is because a large part of the internet is not censored.

Technological advancements have positive and negative effects on us. Let us talk about other facets of latest technologies and their effects.

Nano technology

Nano technology, like the Internet technology is spreading like a wild fire and its future effects are unimaginable. Nano technology spreads through large parts of human life. In the area of human health, nano technology is used for the treatment of cancer. It is used through the infrared to dismantle cancer tumors. Besides the health sector where nano technology has proved its relevance, it is also a force in the electronic sector. With nano, devices or applications of different types and sizes can be built. As a matter of fact, the military seems to be using the nano technology than anyone else. They are projecting its usage for combat, espionage and so forth. Nano technology has unimaginable possibilities. If care is not taken, without nano technology, a lot of damages could be achieved. And the world that has been built for many years might be destroyed within a few moment.

Energy Technology

So much has come out under this category. We have the solar energy, the wind powered plants, hydrogen battery technology. These have proved really useful in place of their alternative technologies. They have helped to break monopoly of various power sectors. Many homes in the US and Europe power their homes with solar energy. This and others are fruits of alternative energy. As good as these are, they come with some environmental hazards. They generate a level of pollutions in our environments like air and water pollution and heat generation to mention but a few.

In a nutshell, as good and important as modern technologies are, efforts should be made to curb their negative impacts. Whenever there is a technological innovation, efforts should be made to forestall its negative impacts on the society.

Negotiating Technology Contracts in Health Care

Technology spending for hardware, software and consulting services accounts for a significant portion of most health care providers budgets today, especially since the Obama Stimulus Plan and HITECH Act are incentivizing providers to implement electronic health records. In a perfect world, technology works perfectly, improves efficiency and the quality of care and makes life easier for the provider. However, the real world is not perfect and things can, and do, go wrong with technology products and services after you purchase and/or license them from third party vendors. Technology contracts generally are written by the vendors and consultants. Unfortunately, many technology contracts fall short of giving providers adequate protection and often contain hidden pitfalls and costs. Despite this fact, many providers never give these contracts to experienced health lawyers to help them negotiate better terms and protections for their high-tech investments BEFORE signing. This is a potentially costly practice. Every health care provider should be concerned with at least the following FOUR KEY ISSUES, which should be addressed in any technology contract:

Warranties and Limitations of Liability: Despite elaborate sales presentations, technology contracts typically disclaim most, if not all, warranties and limit the liability of vendors to only refunding all or part of the purchase or license price paid for the technology. Such refunds are inadequate to protect the average provider when problems arise. A technology vendor should be required to give a written warranty in the contract that its product will perform in accordance with documented standards and for a reasonable period of time. At a minimum, this time period should be long enough for the provider to evaluate the technology in its operations. A better solution is to require a warranty for the useful life of the technology, or as long as there is a support and maintenance service agreement in place. A vendor also should not be allowed contractually to limit its liability on default only to return of the purchase price. If a provider suffers actual damages caused by the technology, the vendor should be required, in writing, to stand behind its product and services and reimburse such damages. A reasonable compromise is to require the vendor at least to tender the limits of its insurance coverage, which creates minimal additional risk to the vendor while better protecting the provider.

Payments & Performance: A provider should not agree to pay the full purchase price up front, as is often a contract requirement, leaving the vendor with little incentive to complete its responsibilities. The parties should mutually agree in advance upon a project timetable with milestone targets for delivery and implementation of the technology. Payments should be made in installments conditioned upon reaching the targets. In addition, providers should build in testing rights, in order to evaluate whether the technology is performing as promised. The provider always should have the final say in whether a test provides a successful outcome and whether the final payment should be made to the vendor.

Support and Maintenance: A technology hardware purchase or software license is only as good as the support and maintenance that goes along with it. The vendor should be willing to provide support for at least a defined useful life of the technology. Several questions should be answered in a written support agreement. Are updates or upgrades provided without additional charge? Will the vendor perform on-site or off-site support and maintenance? Will the provider pay a monthly fee plus an hourly charge or is there only an hourly charge? Does the hourly charge differ depending on when or what level of support is needed? Do the charges increase over the term of the support agreement? What is the vendor agreeing to support? Will changes made to the technology by the provider automatically terminate the warranty or support obligations? Unless the contract is specific regarding essential issues, a provider may find itself paying for less or different support and/or maintenance services than needed or expected.

Confidentiality: Confidentiality of patient health information is a critical issue. Federal HIPAA law has a variety of privacy and security rules providers and their business associates must follow. In addition, some states, including Florida, have enacted legislation that requires entities that conduct business in the state and which maintain computerized data that contains personal information to provide notice to any resident if there is a breach of security. A technology contract should specify if the vendor will have access to any of the confidential patient information. A health care provider must require the vendor and its employees to maintain the confidentiality of such information under federal and many state laws. The technology contract also should expressly protect the confidentiality of provider trade secrets and other proprietary information to which a vendor or consultant may have access.

Although technology contracts may appear intimidating, as they frequently are presented by vendors in small print and columned format, leading providers to believe they are non-negotiable forms, this is not the case in most instances. Investing the time and resources to have a health law attorney experienced in technology contracting review and help to negotiate contracts for hardware purchases, software licenses, maintenance and support, as well as technology consulting services, can save providers significant expense, disappointment and damages should the technology products or services not perform as promised.

Sandra P. Greenblatt, Esq. is a Florida Bar Board Certified Health Lawyer with more than 20 years experience representing health care providers, payors and businesses in their regulatory, transactional and technology matters. She is President of the health law firm of Sandra Greenblatt, P.A., located in Miami, Florida.

Beware the Seductive Power of Technology

I Like Technology. I’m conceding all the good and fun things that computer-based technology has brought into our lives; I’ll not fight that battle. Not only would I lose any argument against the wonderful additions technology has made to our lives, I would be fighting against myself. I love it that I can flip open a Star Trek “communicator” and talk to almost anyone, anytime. I love the very idea of having a communication device out in my back yard, near the bird feeder, that is communicating with a satellite in low earth orbit. Wow! And do I ever love my computer-oops, computers. As in many computers. In fact, my job is strongly tied to technology and I love to get paid. However, this article is a warning, a plea to open our eyes wider than our big screen TVs, to step back out of cell phone range, to put down our PDAs for a minute and look at what has gotten a hold on us.

Technology is Seductive

Technology has the power to draw us in and cause us to lose perspective about what is happening. Just try talking to your child (or maybe your spouse or best friend) the next time some slick TV program or commercial is shimmering across the screen and you’ll see what has all of their attention. Technology draws us in. But if we’re drawn in, we’re also leaving something behind. We could be abandoning loving or developing relationships or the quiet time necessary to think purposefully about our lives, where we are going and how we want to live five years from now. To continue this idea, that technology is seductive, let’s look at the natural progression of how we respond to new technology.

Technology as a Toy

All new technology comes to us in the guise of a toy, thus its initial seductive pull on us. No matter the age, the new technology feels like a toy. It is smooth, pretty and flashes little lights. It makes cute sounds and we respond to it from the childlike (or childish) center of our being. It is not the sophisticated 35 year old business executive that is responding to the new all-purpose, highly-evolved technology thing, it is instead the seven year old child inside that is gushing and filled with Christmas morning lust. We might not even have any way to use it yet, but we play with it. We turn channels, set the volume on the 96 surround sound speakers (yours doesn’t have 96?), take pictures of our toes with it, and enthusiastically pursue carpel tunnel problems as quickly as our thumbs and fingers can fly over fun little colored buttons. It is a toy. But it does move evolve into our next category and that makes us feel a little better about it and helps us avoid the fact that we just spent a year of future retirement on a toy.

Technology as a Tool

The toy usually becomes a tool. In our strong desires to justify the purchase of the toy, we look for things it can do. Ah, it keeps my calendar. Cool! Now I won’t have to keep track of my $29.00 day planner and worry about losing it. I just need to worry about losing my $495 PDA. But it can also take pictures. That’s important. It’s also good that it can erase them because I find I take a lot of pictures that are really crap and now I not only spent time taking the pictures, I also get to spend time erasing them. But the toys often turn into very serious tools. I may continue to use my cell phone toy as I unconsciously blow through red lights and make turns without signaling (need that spare arm for the cell), but I also realize this toy is a serious safety tool. I don’t want to be broken down on the highway and not have this link to help. The same 50″ flat screen wall hanging that is a toy is also a tool to be aware of threatening weather and important current events. And the notebook computer that empowers me to look at pictures of potential Russian brides helps me write this article and project investment returns. Toys have the potential of becoming tools. From puppies to working dogs. But there is a third and more dangerous level.

Technology as a Tyrant offers one definition of a tyrant as, “a tyrannical or compulsory influence.” Wow! Think cellphone, e-mail, Skype, compulsive checking of forums, chat rooms, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other current flavors of Turkish delight known as technology. These things can be toys (relatively harmless except for what they might be replacing), they can be tools, or they can become tyrants. When deeply engrained into our work or social structure, they change from being puppies or work dogs and become pit bulls that can bite and clamp down so that it is very difficult to dislodge them. I used to be able to keep up with the demands of my job. Once upon a time I actually had a little time that I could budget weekly that was “walk around and get to know everyone better” time. No more. Now I am constantly juggling attention among appointments, drop-in unannounced visitors, snail mail, phone calls with the pink reminders, cell phone calls, and e-mail. I can never get one caught up without intrusions from all of the others. The first four were barely manageable, with cell and e-mail added, I’m no longer in control, the pit bull is. So, what happened?

How Did We Get Like This?

Okay. Here is the crux of this article. Technology is on a different evolutionary rate than us humans. It reproduces faster than mice and changes species with each generation. We were enticed, and continue to be enticed, by technology due to its seductive dark side. It beckons to the seven year old inside and draws us in. As a tool, technology is embraced and embedded into our lives, seemingly as a partner, one called alongside of us to help us. But, without an understanding of the evolutionary path of technology, we do not control its place in our lives. It becomes a tyrant that bullies us and pulls us around on its lease instead of the other way around. Because of the initial seductive nature of technology, we don’t easily see that it will tend to take us to where we don’t want to go and make us pay more than we first thought we were willing to pay. So, what shall we then do?

What We Must Do

I’m not offering a plan but an approach. The approach depends upon fully understanding what has gotten a grip on us. I suggest the following critical pieces for beginning to manage technology and protect our humanity:

  • Clearly see that technology is seductive and separate out and control the childish reactions to the initial toy aspects of new technology. Gratification can be delayed (an adult response) and toys can be both played with and put away.
  • Think through both intended and unintended consequences of bringing a shiny, new technology toy into your life. What is it replacing? How will you control it so it doesn’t put you on a leash?
  • Do not assume that a new technology tool is better than an older one that worked well for you in the past. I have a colleague who keeps in a pocket a little list of things to do, thoughts, and insights. His pen and paper list worked a lot better than my PDA when when my technology tool lost both primary and backup batteries and I lost passwords to multiple accounts and forums. Which is better?
  • Many new technology tools cannot be avoided. However, they can be managed. Think of ways to limit their use and how to communicate your policies for your use to your colleagues, family, and friends. For example, I check my email once a day and make it clear to my colleagues that I am not sitting at my computer all day waiting for the chime (evidently, they are).
  • Finally, pay attention to the things that technology tends to replace and redouble your effort to work on relationships so you have no regrets.

How Technology Creates Wealth

Markets create energy because they are dynamic. They are constantly evolving in response to changes in the economic, political and technological environments. Understanding what causes a market to evolve helps you predict where opportunities will emerge; how fast they will develop, and when and whether mass adoption will occur. If you can capture this energy, you can use it to drive the sales process.

Dynamic systems create energy. If left unchecked, any systemic change tends to grow. A snowball rolling downhill gets bigger. Growth creates momentum. As the snowball grows bigger, it goes faster. Momentum creates energy. The faster the snowball rolls; the bigger it gets; the harder it hits the tree. Energy drives change. (Source The Fifth Discipline)

You can use the energy sources created by an evolving market to motivate prospects to buy your solution. Persuading people to try out a new technology is an uphill battle. You have to invest a lot of your precious energy – sales resources, capital, technical expertise, etc. – into convincing prospects they can benefit from using your technology to support their business. However, if you understand what is driving market change- an increasingly mobile workforce, higher need for personal security, faster access to global markets – then you use the energy created by the market to motivate prospects to buy. Thus, you need to invest less of your own resources and you can sell more productively and efficiently.

Technology markets create abundance.

There are two laws that explain why technology-enabled markets generate extraordinary amounts of energy.
1. Moore’s Law predicts that technology is going to improve in the future and cost less.
2 Metcalf’s Law states that technologies become more useful as more people use them.

The combination of these two laws creates an economy of abundance that is unique to technology markets. As Moore’s Law predicts an endless supply of ever-increasing resources and Metcalf’s Law promises that innovations will be quickly adopted, the nature of the economy changes.

Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, said, “Every 18 months processing power doubles while the cost holds constant.” The implications of Moore’s Law are that every 18 months technology is going to cost half as much and be twice as powerful. Moore’s Law has held true for over 30 years. Previous economies were based on the laws of scarcity, where you have a limited amount of resources and value is based on how scarce they are – gold, oil, land, etc. The more you use up the resources the less energy you have.

A technology-based economy is based on the laws of abundance. According to Moore’s law, there will always be cheaper resources tomorrow. This ever-increasing pool of resources enables customers to implement new business strategies. If it isn’t possible today, it will be possible tomorrow. Improved technology is constantly fueling the market, creating energy.

Furthermore, thanks to this simple formula technological obsolescence is only a few months away. Customers can never afford to sit still for fear that a competitor will be able to leapfrog ahead of them if they adopt the next generation of technology faster. This anxiety is another powerful source of energy that you can use to drive your sales.

Metcalf’s Law also has a powerful effect on developing markets. Robert Metcalf, the founder of 3Com, said “New technologies are valuable only if many people use them… the utility of a network equates the square of the number of users. ” This means that the more people use a technology, the more useful it becomes. If there was only one fax machine in the world, it wouldn’t be useful. With two fax machines you can send mail back and forth faster and cheaper than if you send it through the post office. With 2,000,000 fax machines, you never have to wait in line at the post office again.

According to Metcalf a technology’s usefulness equals the number of users squared. If two people use a fax it is four times easier than using the postal system. If 20 people use the fax machine, it is 400 times easier. This creates a geometric increase in the technology’s utility, which is just another way of saying why customers would want to buy it. So if 2 people want to buy a fax machine today; 4 people will want to buy it tomorrow; 16 people will want to buy it the day after tomorrow; 256 people will want to buy it next week, and 2,147,483,648 will want to buy it by the end of the month. That is a lot of potential customers lining up to buy your product, which is what market energy is all about.

Abundance creates demand for your technology. Since technology markets create abundance they are not subject to the constraints of scarcity. They have unlimited growth potential and consequently unlimited potential to create wealth.