Analytics at work

Analytics at Work (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010)

A structured approach on how to utilise the massive amounts of data in your organisation.  Analytics as a tool requires a strategic approach to implement processes and systems in your company,  together with the right talent and management approach.

Modern Monopolies

Modern Monopolies: What It Takes to Dominate the 21st Century Economy (St. Martin's Press, 2016)

Strategists in the “21st century economy” have a difficult task predicting disruptive new models that will challenge established business.    In “Modern Monopolies” Alex Moazed and Nicholas Johnson provide truly valuable insight into platform businesses and how several of them have come to have such an impact across all industries.  Examples of platform businesses are Uber, AirB&B, Facebook, Twitter and so on.

Modern platform businesses are very different from traditional linear businesses.  A linear business can be described as a sequence of activities that convert  inputs (or raw materials) to more valuable outputs (products).  Platform businesses on the other hand are structured in a way akin to an ecosystem,  where producers are matched with consumers so that they can transact value in a very simple way.    The platform is more a facilitator of value exchange and less of a producer.

This book is very useful in understanding how a platform business is structured at its core.  Four activities namely: developing useful tools, matchmaking, audience building and setting rules and standards are necessary to build a successful platform.  Understanding what makes some platforms succeed and others fail is very important whether you are looking to enhance your existing business models, or invest in a new start-up that promises to become the next big thing in a specific market.

I would highly recommend this book to business strategists, technology professionals, software professionals and investors looking  to get a good understanding of this new and evolving business model.  The book is very readable with many many examples that illustrate the principles in a clear and entertaining way.

Programme Management for Owner Teams (Secunda: Owner Team Consultation, 2015)

A practical guide to what you need to know


The intent of this book is to summarise what programme management entails. It provides a practical overview and understanding of what programme management is compared to managing a single project or a portfolio of projects. This is done from an owner team perspective.
The book provides guidelines, case study examples, as well as the tools required in all the relevant areas of project and programme management. Programmes are covered from initial inception through to final completion, focusing not only on achieving project objectives, but also on the overall business objectives of the programme. The focus and level of detail required from an owner programme management team are covered.
The book covers programme initiation and shaping, business ethics, obtaining alignment amongst stakeholders, planning, organising and control aspects, communication and nurturing of the team throughout the lifecycle of the programme.

Necessary Endings: The employees, businesses and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward (HarperBusiness, 2013)

Necessary Endings was recommended to me by a friend at a time I was reflecting on the pursuit of a new chapter in my life. This required leaving my job and starting a journey into the unknown.  I had little certainty other than the deep belief that I was no longer serving my purpose by staying in the same place. In fact I was getting a sense of regression, going backwards as the corporate world changed around me,  and as my own goals evolved to the pursuit of something new, something invigorating and more meaningful to me.

Henry explains in the book how the Good cannot begin until the Bad ends, how to recognise the Bad in a situation and come to the conviction that change is necessary. He also writes about the natural Seasons of Life and how change (and necessary endings) are part of the greater purpose of life; and why it is futile to cling to a hope that things will turn out OK when clearly there is a new direction needed.

The real value I gained from this book relates to the decision to resign from my job of 13 years. The book equally speaks to people who are in relationships which need to be ended, or in the context of activities that need to be ended, or poor performing employees that need to be “pruned” from the organisation for the continued health and success of the company.

I can totally recommend this book to anyone who is searching for meaning in endings that they are busy undergoing, or contemplating.

Its not normal that I rate a book 5 stars on Amazon, perhaps that is more because it is highly relevant in this point in my own life.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Harper Collins)

If you are considering starting a new business then this is a worthwhile read.  However if your startup is in the area of professional services (such as consulting) then you might be slightly frustrated at the end of the book because the examples given don’t cover the nuances of this type of business.  You might also need to abstract and distil the main themes from the book in order to see the relevance to your situation.  But if you do this with an open mind and interpret the authors example of opening a pie franchise then the leaning points are valuable indeed.

The main message from this book is that a technical specialist is likely to fail at a new business venture unless they change their mindset to work on the business (Direct) rather than in the business (Operate).  They need to be the owner in the true sense not the cornerstone employee.  This requires a strategic approach to business development.

Considering that much of our life is spent in our professional work, it is essential that we are fulfilled.  There is nothing admirable about working in an environment that is not allowing you to express your life purpose.  The author emphasises the importance of finding your own true mission and how you can integrate your new business into this purpose so that they are in synergy.

The creation of a scaleable, repeatable business model (the franchise) is a mindset change that is possible for technical people,  but this mindset shift needs to be deliberate since busy technical work is more compelling to many technical personalities.

Turning Ideas into Market-Winning Products: What You Need to Know to be a Product Developer, Manager, and Innovator. (Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014)

Product management has sometimes been called the “accidental profession”. This is because the discipline covers so many areas from marketing, product development, projects and end user support. As a result product managers can feel pulled in multiple directions in a company where the emphasis is on project delivery and monthly financial metrics.
Chad writes authoritatively on the subject in an easy to understand style. He presents several models to guide and direct product managers in their role. The real world is often not tidy enough to accommodate rigid frameworks, by Chad has struck a balance between the ideal scenario and challenges likely to be experienced in practice.
Recommended for aspiring product managers and those who find themselves in the “accidental profession”.

Writing Riches – the secrets of copywriting (Morgan James Publishing, 2010)

Although I was once responsible for marketing in a small public company, I never really understood what copy writing was all about until I read Ray Edwards book.

At the time if anyone had asked me whether I wanted to get involved in sales I would recoil in horror, for sales was something that required a special personality able to withstand constant rejection and able to close a deal no matter what product was on the table.

Ray shows that we are all sales people, and that copy writing is an essential skill in the information age to promote and sell your product or service in the midst of fierce competition.

Ray illustrates that there is a straightforward approach to writing good sales copy that will work and give your product the best chance of success in the market. After reading this book you will be more than empowered to write your own good copy that sells well.

One word of caution, the hard selling off-putting style associated with typical sales letters might seem “over the top” in some cultures and I respect that Ray is writing for the specific audience where he has the most experience.

Yet the underlying psychology and principles of buying a product or service are very human and universally valid; and can therefore work in almost any situation.

Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world (Thomas Nelson, 2012)

There is no doubt in my mind, the economy has irreversibly changed as a result of the information age.  Never before has it been more important or necessary to rethink our approach to marketing ourselves, our personal brand and our impact in our selected niche.  The good news is that there are now tools than make it super-easy to build an online “platform”  – your personal digital mark in the history of the information age.

However building a platform needs to be intentional and strategic.

Over the past 2 years since I bought this book I have grown to respect Michael Hyatt tremendously; listening to his podcast, reading his blogs and becoming a member of Platform University, the online membership site founded by Michael and close associates. Michael shares with amazing transparency his approach to building an online presence.  Yes he had a head start from his role as CEO of a major publishing company.  But he has managed convince minnows like myself that I can write, that I have something to say and that I can make an impact in my life and that of my digital associates.

Platform covers the essential steps needed to set up an online platform in support of your mission in life and your business.  From starting with Wow (over deliver), the launch, your home base and extending your reach, to engaging your fans the book covers a strategic process that for some will take many years.

The book has contributed to changing my life.  Worth a read if you are serious about succeeding in an increasingly complex digital world.