Sunday, April 2, 2017

AppsJack Capable Communities Meetup – March 2017 – Delivering Product & Services Discussion

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4 PM
Kirkland, WA

A few business associates and I gathered last Tuesday to talk about challenges relating to delivering products & services.  Delivering products and services is the fourth element in the APQC model.  I showed up at about 3:30 and struck up a conversation with Alan Andersen who was already there.  Alan is a leadership coach and consultant.

I’ve been fortunate to get to know Alan better over the last couple of months and it’s been a good experience for me.  Alan is well read and has so many experiences working with leaders and teams from which he can draw experiences and stories.  We sat and chatted and then a few more people showed up at our table, the Captain's Table.

Richard Webb, always a powerful and interesting force, showed up and we started to get into the meat of the delivery topic.  James Tuff, an entertaining and vivacious technology sales executive and entrepreneur, showed up and sat at the head of the table.  After long we had eight at the table including clinical psychologist and writer Steve Kubacki, an intelligent, insightful, opinionated professional and mountaineer.  Steve is great at these events in that he helps us stayed grounded, balanced and on point.  Steve regularly shares perspectives that help us see things from a more human, less business, perspective.  Tonight was no exception.

My new friend, Thomas Mercer, was sitting to my right.  I was drinking iced tea in copious amounts; I had been sick with a fever earlier in the week but was starting to spring back to life.  Spring was upon us indeed.  12 years prior, Thomas and I had finished the same master’s program at the University of Washington Foster Business School: information systems where we learned about the internet, networks, business.  And when things like Facebook were brand new.  Thomas previously ran a medical practice business that helped people with irritable bowel syndrome with diagnosis and treatment.  He explained to us his time working on that project and ho it related to the challenges of delivery.

Lee Carter, sitting to my left, is a business development manager for Ciber, a technology consulting firm with some major clients in the area, recently relocated to the Seattle area from Dallas, TX.  We were also graced by Bruce Follansbee’s presence.  Bruce is always good for conversation, putting people at ease, and book references.

One of the first things I asked about was blockchain and its relationship to delivery.  Per wikipedia:
blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block.[6] By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data — once recorded, the data in a block cannot be altered retroactively. Through the use of a peer-to-peer network and a distributed timestamping server, a blockchain database is managed autonomously. Blockchains are "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically."
Richard and Thomas seemed to know quite a bit on the subject and shared what they knew with us.  There was discussion about whether the blockchains should be open or closed, transparent or not.  Issues related to security and privacy were major pivot points for our discussion.  Richard suggested that we loop in Ellen Mooney into the conversation; I guess she is an expert on the topic of digital democracy.

We were pretty much all over the map in the beginning of the discussion, going from micro levels of delivery (firm or product perspectives) up to the macro levels (global supply chains, politics and economics).  Richard talked about Amazon’s CIDC pipelines and brought up the term “logistics engine”.  Many at the table agreed that Amazon is doing very amazing things these days and that their ability to delivery and run supply chains is amazing.  For many years, Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue in the world, has been known for its logistics and methods like “cross-docking” but it seems that Amazon, between its online presence and many innovative new products and services has begun to eat into that area of innovation.  Much is happening with Amazon.

We talked about hypothetical scenarios where Amazon could, for example, run dentist offices and use 3d printing for delivery of replacement teeth.  It didn’t seem very far-fetched.  Richard mentioned and recommended the movie Elysium which has some interesting and futuristic elements to it where people get scanned with lasers and good things happen.

I realized at some point in the bubbling conversation that the differences between delivering services and delivering products really are stark.  APQC has even recognized this issue by breaking them out into different L1 elements, making the model 13 items, no longer 12.  I think it’s important to pick one or the other for the sake of focus, clarity and conversation.  Delivering products seems a bit easier in that they are tangible and “real”, whereas delivering services seems a bit more human and ambiguous and challenging, at least to me.  Richard doesn't believe that the distinction is all that different.  Similarities between delivering services and managing customer service (the next area in the AQPC model) seem obvious and will be the target of future exploration.

We got into a pretty detailed conversation about banking, the flow of money, financial systems and corruption.  Richard is very passionate about the many issues of corruption and it helps to have Steve there for his thoughts on humanity as well.  Richard gave examples of Visa being able to run all transactions in the world on its system alone.  Steve made some interesting points about capitalism, such as:
“Capitalism is about wiping out the competition as much as possible so you can waste as much as you want.”  
Steve’s a funny guy and I don’t disagree with the point.  I know some people who definitely act that way.  For these people I know, the goal is to get really rich and make a lot of money now so they can chill out, retire and do very little later.  They aren’t trying to create economies or markets or anything, they are trying to dominate existing ones.  In a word: take.  Not my kind of verb.

Someone mentioned the book by Chris Anderson “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” and cited that it was interesting.  James Tuff shared about a new business idea he is working on in the transportation and informatics areas and we all found it interesting helping him think about how he could deliver that set of products and services.  We had a lengthy and fruitful conversation with Reba about her challenges and ideas for competing and delivering value in the very rapidly changing real estate industry.

Business is highly complex and so is delivery.  Delivery is where the rubber meets the road.  Analyzing any business from the perspective of delivery is difficult because of the natural complexity.

Stay tuned for the upcoming podcast episode on delivery when I will sit down with Josh Bosworth and Steve Kubacki to bat the topic around.