Extreme Business Planning, Again

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by: Sigurd Rinde

Many years ago, in the heydays of WAP dreams I listened to many a telecoms executive gushing about the future of WAP.

And off they went spending much and many a dollar on infrastructure, hardware and advertising. Did you ever use it?

Then it was 3G.

Yet again the telecoms dreamt up huge numbers and plonked down 134 Billion $ for the licenses in Europe alone.

Know what, we did not go out and do what the telecoms marketing departments had planned for us to do.

Vodafone, the biggest spender in Europe spent 34 of those Billions on licenses and had last quarter 3.8% of their business from 3G. Of the current 720 mobile users in Europe only 5.4% uses 3G. (Source IHT)

That’s extreme business planning the bad way.

When I started using the term "extreme business planning" I meant as in extreme programming, a strain of agile programming. Extremely agile. Not extremely stubborn.

This gets me to the point:

Perhaps the most dangerous part of a strategy is taking it too literally, too narrow too early – "What value am I going to deliver to what customers…"

"What’s your target customer?"

"What problem are you going to solve?"

Guess you’ve heard it. Dangerous stuff. Very dangerous stuff. Ask the telecoms chaps!

To make it simple – there is no way you can outguess the market: How are they going to use your stuff? Who’s going to be the first users? The biggest group of users? Are they going to use it all?

No way you’ll know beforehand. Accept that fact and make your moves so reality can inform you as early as possible.

So what to do? Your product is ready and you just received five million in funding of which four are earmarked the "product launch":

One million goes into training the distribution channel, three into some amazing ads and TV slots precisely targeted your target market. Then you lean back and bite finger nails. Lotto style.

The telecoms can digest a miss, with pain, you cannot at all.

I wonder how many start-ups walked into this trap without the right "lottery ticket" and have never been heard from since?

Build what you think is some valuable stuff, get it out there as early as possible with no limits to who the user might be – listen attentively, find out how it’s used, who uses it – tweak and repeat until it sticks in reality, then crank up, only then. That’s where the funding should go, fund the time you need.

That’s extreme business planning, extremely agile business planning.

In my view the only kind of planning with a reasonable chance of success. For big and small.