Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Clash of the Tech Titans


Apple,Amazon and Google
Three tech giants are vying for your attention. They not only want you to buy their products, they also want you to invest in their future vision by buying shares. When you hear the names Amazon, Apple and Google, it seems like a no-brainer; investing in one of these three greats is bound to be lucrative, right? Not necessarily. As with any other investment, only looking at it superficially could land you in hot water.

Tech success in three easy steps

Creating a successful tech company used to be clear-cut: 

  1. Create a progressive product people need
  2. Take control of the market 
  3. Rake in the serious cash involved with controlling a bit of popular tech

This is how Bill Gates did it with Microsoft in the 90s, not to mention Cisco Systems and Intel. At the turn of the millennium things changed; the new-fangled industry greats are completely different.

Amazon, Apple and Google


These companies have huge product lines, all tied together in some way supporting the core revenue stream. Think of them as well-run towns: to figure out whether a town has strong future potential, it takes careful consideration of every aspect. Let's take a look at how these companies measure up to one another.

Amazon


The biggest online vendor in the world still rakes in millions of dollars in sales every month, but the losses have been snowballing over the past few quarters. Although CEO Jeff Bezos' idea of establishing long-term market leadership instead of focusing on short-term gains may work out in the long run, bad decisions like the Fire phone (Amazon's smartphone) is cause for concern.
The verdict: Don't buy Amazon shares. If you have Amazon shares, sell them asap.

Apple


Apple sells experiences rather than products, and it seems like the iPhone is the top selling 'experience' around. More than half of the company's substantial revenue is made up of iPhone sales; it is even eating into Android phone sales for the first time in two years. Apple stock is available at discounted rates despite having a higher yield, and the company's revenue growing more than a third faster than the current average of big tech companies.
The verdict: Buy Apple stock now.

Google


Not many company names have been converted into a verb. Even though Google Glass and other nifty gadgets are available on the market, advertising is still where most of the company's revenue comes from. The hardware serves a dual purpose; although not a lot, it brings in some money and it puts the search engine (the real money-maker) out there. Google stock is reasonably cheap now and prices appear to be steadily dropping. Whether this is a temporary setback or cause for long-term concern is not certain. But, Google is Google so may be worth hanging onto for a while.
The verdict: Hold on to shares and keep a watch on prices.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CIOs Risk Being Marginalised Through Obsolete Thinking

Big Data (source: Wikipedia)
Big Data (source: Wikipedia)
Emerging digital technologies have the power to either excite or irritate corporate kingpins responsible for company tech. It presents pressing challenges to Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT managers to keep up with the ever-changing maelstrom of development, and it downright harasses the unfortunate CIOs who maintain a mindset of: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Not embracing tech for various reasons


Even CIOs not stuck on outdated tech, are falling behind in terms of technological progress. According to research from the progressive analysts at Gartner, a disturbing percentage of CIOs are not grasping the full spectrum of opportunities that the state-of-the-art tech of the 21st century offers. The excuse? "There is just too much tech to come to terms with these days", they allegedly say.

A simple solution in a veritable tech jungle


Gartner not only identified the problem but also offers a clear-cut way forward. To make things easier for CIOs who are feeling overwhelmed, the intrepid company has identified six of the core areas of technology:
  • Wearable tech and human augmentation - Social, religious and ethical issues have not stunted the rapid growth of making tech so accessible you literally wear it. Human augmentation takes it one step further and is not lagging far behind in development. CIOs will have to consider the implications of not accepting this as the next step to maintain a competitive edge.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) - Big Media and Big Data is big news, as is environmental monitoring and energy management. CIOs can also expect to start hearing more about IoT technology in areas like interactive building automation and fleet management integrated with geo-location. According to Gartner, the biggest problem is the potential for political tension between departments when faced with the ultimate in integration.
  • Cyber safety - Unfortunately, corporate espionage is fast becoming an integral part of unscrupulous corporate companies' agendas. It is a dog-eat-dog world and serious players need to protect themselves. 
  • 3D printing - The possibilities are endless for this particular technology, and are already being applied in areas like manufacturing, art and even in domestic use. CIOs should become familiar with 3D printing before it becomes a crucial element as part of routine tasks. 
  • Robotics - Automation has been, and continues to be a priority in progress. With every passing year more has to happen in a shorter time-frame. Simply put: we need machines just to keep up with the rest of the world in daily life. In business, this is becoming even more vital.
  • Cognitive machines - A scary notion, but that will not make it go away. CIOs should look at ways of using this as complementary technology and not a replacement for human work.

Say yes to innovation


According to Gartner, CIOs will have to look at restructuring as soon as possible to accommodate overlapping areas of responsibility. Operations-focused technologies would fall under operations as well as IT and the same applies to HR-focused tech, marketing tech etc. The trick to seamless integration is planning, but before that can happen they have to say yes to the tech and take responsibility, or they will get left behind.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Advisors to Avoid When you Start your Startup

are you launching a startup?
are you  launching a startup?

As soon as people hear you are launching a startup you will start getting all sorts of advice - good and bad, sensible and silly. Mention your ideas, and people around will turn into a variety of 'experts'. Suddenly the mailman will want to add onto your product line, your sister's new boyfriend will insist you add particular functionality and some person you met on the bus will know a top secret way to get Google to buy into your business. You will undoubtedly hear suggestions so ridiculous you'll have to insist that a generous pinch of salt is served alongside them.

Advice: to ignore advice, or not to ignore?

As a fresh entrepreneur rolling with a new idea, you could probably use good advice from people with experience. The problem is how to filter useful advice through an ocean of irrelevance. Start by taking a good look at the source of the advice: the advisor. There are many kinds of advisors, and some have to be avoided at all cost.
  1. The know-it-all - This kind of advisor comes across as being very knowledgeable without asking any questions about your business or paying much attention to your ideas. They launch into advice almost immediately; they spout out technical terminology and industry statistics at a rapid rate, and leave you wishing you had a pen, a notepad and some serious shorthand skills. The know-it-all is likely giving advice just to feel important and the advice is probably about their business, and not yours. 
  2. The blinkered - Blinkered advisors are assumed to be experts because they have had entrepreneurial success. This sort of advisor starts every bit of advice by using the distant past as an example and is only able to apply experience in a single context. Times change and it is important to get current advice from a wider scope of experience. 
  3. The snake - Although there are many honest people in the world, you may come across advisors with ulterior motives. Watch out for somebody who persists in trying to change your mind about something you instinct says is a good idea - good ideas are often stolen. 
  4. The yes man - You know if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some advisors will be 100% positive about your startup and fall in with whatever you say. It is better to lend your ears to somebody with a balanced view than someone who agrees with you all the time.

What to look for in an advisor

Don't let this put you off taking advice; mentors and advisors can provide invaluable support. Look for good listeners with broad and current experience. Follow your gut, especially when it comes to insistent advisors, and don't get despondent if you get constructive criticism: appreciate it and learn from it.