Strategies for SAAS providers

Today, increasingly software providers are increasing the focus of selling information technology products as services. Thus there has been a spurt of adoption of SAAS (Software as a service) delivery models. However, switching to a SAAS delivery model requires the adoption of newer strategies, to maintain competitive advantage and sustained growth.

So what should be the major focus of entrepreneurial ventures offering technology services as SAAS?

A major success pointer for SAAS business model is pricing their services. Normally a company, which uses SAAS to provide any service should have a 2 tier pricing strategy, a part based on usage, and a fixed (normally initial setup costs). The focus of a SAAS provider should be to provide the benefits of economies of scale at both ends of potential stake-holders. So for a SAAS e-commerce provider, pricing is of key importance. A major successful pricing strategy would be one based on the value of the technology to the user, i.e. value based pricing strategies.

Next another major issue is reaching out to potential customers and then keeping them. Technology firms keep entry barriers through technology platforms, and so an e-commerce portal may continue using a company’s tech, even if it is higher priced, because costs of switching may be too high. The associated platform or hardware licensing issues may arise in cases of switching. Thus customers, once acquired, often are acquired for life, unless major customer dissatisfaction creates contingent situations.

Another major challenge for entrepreneurial ventures is moving forward in the PLC curve. While innovation is a must for information goods, there is a cost associated with development. However, once converted customers, are less likely to accept newer pricing strategies easily. Thus, conveying additive value of the new innovations to the customers becomes another challenge. Thus entrepreneurial ventures often start very successfully, but yet, flicker and die out, while attempting to move up the PLC curve.

Another major concern for entrepreneurial ventures arises from slow evolution of the multi-tenant architecture, which most SAAS providers use as a basic platform to deliver their service. Horizontal scaling strategies create a barrier to develop and adopt newer technologies and platforms that will provide increased operational benefits both for the client and service providers. Virtualization, while lowers cost, is essentially a barrier towards innovation, and thus the question whether multi-tenancy is necessary for SAAS delivery models is a major topic of controversy. This becomes even a bigger factor for entrepreneurial ventures with less deeper pockets.

Finally, another challenge for new service developers becomes protecting IPRs. Since the SAAS model ensures that there to a great extent of customization at the end of each client, the scope for differentiating and maintain the differentiation, is somewhat diluted by the intangible nature of services. Thus new innovations are often plagiarized by competitors and this really hits hard to new ventures. While developing IPRs increases cost (which often is a very sensitive issues in entrepreneurial ventures) , it should be understood it also protects the firm’s services from being plagiarized.

Do let us know if you feel there are more serious areas of concern for SAAS providers, in their focus to develop sustainable business strategies.

Values and Attitudes: a case study (2)

Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviors and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things. Attitudes are how values are manifested in our actions and thoughts to others. ATTITUDES are our feelings towards certain ideas and dictate how we react in concrete situations.

In this case study, we analyze the values and attitudes in Lagaan, the bollywood superhit movie of 2007. (Part 2)

Identifying Instrumental Values.

Bhuvan’s value of collectivism was in his accepting the challenge.Also Captain Russels individualism and superiority complex was portrayed when he decided to actually lay down the challenge to bhuvan, and this was clearly not appreciated by his superiors.The raja’s values of Dharma over Karma was expressed when he was asked to consume meat,in return of the favour asked.The collectivism of the villagers was expressed when they united to fight against the wrong that was being done towards them.The uncertainty avoiding values of the villagers were expressed when they did not want to tke up the challenge.Then Deva Singh Sodhi’s instrumental values came in the act in his joining the team,against his terminal values of fighting against the british.The values of the caste system became evident when bhuvan invited kachra to play,but eventually bhuvan managed to ignite the collectivism of the villagers. Collectivism was again portrayed when Lakha’s Individualistic act of betrayal became public. The values of winning,at the cost of ethical sportsmanship,was portrayed by the british players during the game.

Biographical Characteristics:

Age:  The impact of seniority has been seen throughout the film, especially in times when Bhuvan tries to speak in defiance of the british raj, but the senior villagers prevent him from doing so.When bhuvan actually first started to play the game, an incident occurs, when the ball moves towards gauri, and when she tries to give it back to him, she is ordered by her father to tend to household activities. Throughout the film, it is seen that the important positions in the village social architecture, like the mukhiya, is held by senior persons.It is not as if seniors do not let the juniors to speak out their perspectives and views, but the status of seniors still remains. In fact, there has been several occasions throughout the movie when the youth can actually make the senior citizens see reason although initially they were less inclined to do so. The age factor has been key in deciding the values of the individuals, with respect to their openness. The youth had been actually portrayed to be more upto the challenge, and ready for a change, while the seniors were not really ready to accept changes in their thought processes.

Gender:  It has been observed through out the film that feminine characters has been portrayed as those with feelings, and although the society of the village has been purely patriarchal in terms of holding the key positions like the mukhiya,women has been associated with  respectful persona that cared for the rest, and saw to it that the family needs were taken care of. They tended to the old, weak and the injured and sick people.It was especially illustrated when during game practice sessions gauri came with the meals for the players, and even coerced them to eat.During the practice sessions, when the players got bruised, under the guidance of Harikaka, they tended to the players. The behavior of Elizabeth has been a sharp contrast to that of her brother, who was arrogant and unkind, to the core and expressed masculinity.

Caste: Caste system was prevalent in those days, and that also took a centre stage in the later half of the movie when Bhuvan invited kachra to play in his team. Kachra was referred to as being untouchable or “Achut” and the rest of the team initially was very adamant about leaving him out of the team. It took the inspirational character of Bhuvan to actually convince the villagers to move away from the caste bias and play unitedly and portray collectivism.

Race: A scene flashes to the inner eye is when throughout the movie, the Indian villagers were mistreated by the british raj as being native and insults were hurled at them at random and they were severely penalized even for small “mistakes”. The Indian villagers were shown to be beaten up, and Captain Russel went to the extent of saying that the natives would for ever live under the soles of the britishers. This shows the complete disregard of the human being and the racist feelings and attitudes that took centrestage when the plot of the movie unfolded. Even the british loyalists were not free from insults, and towards the end of the match, it was seen that even the most loyal Ramprasad revolted due to the constant differential behavior that was meted out to him on a regular basis.
Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviours and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things.

 

Values and Attitudes : A case study (1)

Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviors and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things. Attitudes are how values are manifested in our actions and thoughts to others. ATTITUDES are our feelings towards certain ideas and dictate how we react in concrete situations.

In this case study, we analyze the values and attitudes in Lagaan, the bollywood superhit movie of 2007.

First, an understanding of the needs pyramid is essential for further appreciation of the case analysis.

The need pyramid typically drives the values and attributes of individuals. The characters  of lagaan are also not free from the effects of this hierarchy of needs, first hypothesized by Maslow.

Values and Attitudes: The Flow in Lagaan.

The attitudes in the movie become evident when an argument starts between goli and bhura, reflecting their affection for their children and poultry respectively.Then gauri professes negative affective attitude towards Lakha.The oncoming clouds spark behavioral and affective attitude driven actions amongst the villagers starting a celebration.Then the behavioral component of bhuvan’s towards the british player become evident at the first british-villagers meet.Then the villagers expressed negative cognitive attitude towards bhuvan’s acceptance of the challenge although gauri and his mother showed a positive cognitive attitude.Then the villagers showed an affective attitude when bhuvan’s first shot hit the temple bell.The value to stand by a villager, if threatened by external forces became evident, when bhuvan was then attacked by the other village. Elizabeth portrayed the value for equality of chances when she decided to help the villagers understand the game. Then Ismail’s cognitive attitude became evident on seeing the “gori mem” assisting bhuvan.The instrumental value of deva singh sodhi when he came to play, as against his terminal value of “war” against the britishers.Then the affective value of elizabeth gets portrayed as she confesses to bhuvan,she loved him.Similarly, bhuvan professes his love to gauri.Bhuvan’s behavioral component of equality got reflected when he invited kachra to play in the team,against the negative cognitive attitude of the villagers,which he later managed to change.On the D-Day the affctive attitude of the raja against the british became evident.Then when the villagers came to know about Lakha’s betrayal, their cognitive and affective attitude became evident.The positive cognitive attitude of the british officers towards the village team’s performance,became evident when the game was in progress.During the game, the cognitive,affective and behavioral attitudes of bhuvan’s team became evident,towards the tactics of the Britishers and their own reactions.Finally, the display of affective attitude when the village team won the match.

Transformation of Attitudes.

Initially the villagers were very hesitant in supporting bhuvan,but the first shot of bhuvan rang the temple bell changed their veiw,which continued seeing the constant enthusiasm of bhuvan and the support from the “gori mem”.Slowly bhuvan’s self belief and enthusiasm was infused among the villagers.Gauri and bhuvan’s mother was always there to support bhuvan from the very beginning,although in the patriarchal society,they did not have too much say.The support from the “gori mem” was instrumental in arising the feelings of the villagers to stand up against being wronged.Amidst  all this positive changes of attitude, the negative changes in Lakha was striking,when his attentions toards gauri was neglected,who in turn only cared for bhuvan,and this caused him to betray his fellowmen to Captain Russel.In the midst of all the challenges,the villagers became a family,leaving aside their initial values for inequality on the basis of caste,and seniority on the basis of age.Then the game started amidst the emotionally charged atmosphere.Then the villagers came to know about Lakha’s betrayal, and although they initially reaction threatened his life,later on bhuvan’s insistence and lakha’s apology,he was given the chance to prove his loyalty, which he did.Then came the real emotional outburst when the village team won the match thus completing the transformation.

Am I SICK?

Is the title giving a blow!! You must be thinking what is this!! “Am I SICK?” No, I am fit and fine. Who says I am sick !! Whoever is telling, he is sick!! And why I will be!! –No Not All.— I know this is what is going on in your mind – am I right!!

 

Let’s give some time for ourselves. Let’s realize ourselves. Let’s give a blow in our inner mind- let’s give a shock in our everyday behavior. I am telling you- you will find yourself in ICU. Shocked !! I know you are. But this is a bitter truth.

Trust me- find out some time for analysis. See who you are, what you are doing, how you are doing and for whom you are doing. Are you actually working!! Working hardly or smartly!! Or just running after money. Dream is big money- big house- costly car; A luxury life. If you are already enjoying- still you want more!! Right!! And if you are a struggler or gradually making your career- still dream remains the same. Going through the same rat-race. Right! Have you ever though to find five minutes for the needy person standing beside you! Have you ever extended your hand when you saw a blind person struggling to find his way on the road where you just passed him giving a veered look? Have you ever gone to help the person who just met with an accident!! Probably No. And if at all your friend suggested going, you said No No!! This can be a police case!! So let us be safe and keep ourselves away. I know you are remembering when you did that. Probably you thought to go but your friend suggested the same. Right!! Have you ever thought to just get up from the seat and let the old person sit there –who is just standing beside you!! You are just happy that somehow you managed a seat. Good if you have done. But probably you will find the answer ‘No’ if you ask yourself.

You must be thinking – how does these make a difference in your life. Your life is cool- and it will be as cool as it is. Right!! You are absolutely right. And if you are thinking in this way- you can’t be blamed for this. Because the value system you are in or the value system you are inculcating into your  next generation – this is quite natural. You don’t have time. But think once. Instead of the person met with an accident; you have met with the same accident! And people are reacting in the same manner and you are just   lying-down  helplessly on the road. How will you feel!! Good !! !! No ; right!! You will expect help from the persons probably whom you did not help when they required oneday!! Right!! If everybody will think the way you think- then imagine what will be your situation on the road after your accident. But do you think that you were not capable of helping the person. Were you sick that day!! You were too sick to talk with the person or hold the hand of that blind person!! No !! But Yes – I will say- you were SICK. Mentally you were SICK. Otherwise a healthy and Ok mind would have instructed you the right thing. Your mind would not have stopped you from helping. Or your mind would not have stay untouched in spite of seeing the blood-stained person lying on the road. It clearly shows that we are fine, but our mind is not. It’s not well. It’s SICK.

 

Find some time to think. Think – are you doing right!! Think are you inculcating the right value into your kids!! Because if you are giving such value to your child – definitely when you will require help, the person who will be standing beside you probably with the same value like your kid- will not help- because they never realized this thought.

It’s never a late. Beginning of anything is good. Let’s think and start realizing. Let’s start making a difference. Let us take our society towards a better one- a cultured- value added healthy and humane society.

Brief Profile of Author : Amitava Pal is a Software Engineer and XLRI Alumni. His special areas of interests are Human Psychology and Soft Skills. He has been writing papers since 2005 and the papers have already been published in India and Abroad like University of California, Bonn University Germany and so on. He is currently writing a book on “Typical Human Psyche on Differential Behaviour”.

Top Ranked Engineering Colleges in India

The ranks of the top engineering colleges are out again. This time this is on the basis of a study conducted by Careers and published on Yahoo. While most of the rankings appear genuine, this list is very crucial for all the engineers wanna-be-s who are scouring for a college where they can kick start their professional career as an engineer.  While as always the ranks in the top are heavily dominated by government colleges and institutes like the IITs, Jadavpur University, IT-BHU, the BITs and the NITs, the top-50 listing is a roll call of excellence India’s top 50 engineering institutions in 2011.

A balanced scorecard methodology was used to cluster the top ranked institutes (colleges and universities) after checking the last five year rankings of about 241 colleges and normalizing heir ranks, by assigning differential weights to subjective and objective ranking criteria, as is the standard in such studies. Such a process has been used to develop clusters of institutions which have similar performance against those criteria.

So before jumping into where you may be targeting, while joining up for your graduate course in engineering, do check out this list. For where you pass out from not only affects how well you learn your discipline, but also the kind of career track you can expect after passing out of the hallowed portals of your Alma Mater.

Value Creation Strategy – Business Model

To create sustainable, long-term value for all the stakeholders of a firm, it is important to explicitly establish an appropriate stakeholder value target. However what would constitute the “success” condition for all the stakeholders of a firm would vary from the goals of individual stakeholder. For an investor in a firm, value may be seen as through higher market price of his stocks and bonds, where as, for a mid level worker, value may mean better returns in terms of satisfaction from the job, maybe in terms of pay grade improvements or in terms of job satisfaction. Although, what constitutes “value creation” may be dependent on stakeholder perception, for a generic strategic framework, there is a need to conceptualize a generic framework to achieve a target so the value may be created for the firm as a whole, in strict strategic sense.

The key to reach this target and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage is the alignment of business strategy, financial strategy, technology strategy, marketing strategy and investor strategies. One such model developed in strategic management literature is that of Strategy Maps.

In Strategic Maps framework, value is created through 3 main organizational resources, namely Human Capital, Information capital and Organization Capital.

As depicted in this model, value for a firm is essentially created through the interaction of  four processes, namely, “Operations management processes“, “Customer relationship management processes“, “Innovation processes” and “Regulatory and Social processes“. Under each process, there are lots of transaction level processes which create value. Monitoring and strategizing on the value creation of  transaction level processes is the functionality of Mid Level management in the organization which may be termed as “Ploy for Value Creation“. Focus here could be “Ploys” for improving cost structure or improving asset utilization within the firm. The objective at this level is to focus on productivity enhancing strategies.

For the executive senior management, strategy formulation for the purpose of “Value creation” would have a different focus. Their objective could be to expand the revenue opportunities through entering a new marketdecide a growth strategy for a product or market, or focus on Business Diversification strategies. In short, the role of the executives would be to evaluate various growth strategies for the firm, which could lead to huge revenues and thus economic value creation in the near future, upon realization of the plan post implementation of the strategy.

There are many other strategic frameworks for the creation of value for businesses which have their individual merits and limitations.  Another popular framework for value creation is that of Prahlad et al. (2004)

Do let us know if you have any query.

Market Entry Strategy for International Business

An international market entry strategy is defined as the planning and implementation of delivering goods or services to a new target international market. It often requires establishing and further managing contracts in a new foreign country. Few firms successfully operate their business in a niche market without ever planning to expand into new markets (mostly due to the localized nature of their Business) but most firms strive to expand through increased sales, brand awareness and business stability by entering a new market. Developing a win-win market entry strategy involves a thorough analysis of  multiple factors, in a planned sequential manner.

Continue reading “Market Entry Strategy for International Business”

Ansoff Matrix

The Ansoff Growth matrix is a tool that helps firms decide their product and market growth strategy based on objective analysis of industry structure and product type. It is one of the more popular tools for strategic management analysis, in the scenario of deciding the case for a related diversification of businesses and firms, which itself is a highly risky strategic decision. Continue reading “Ansoff Matrix”

Top B-Schools of India

The results for the top 30 B-Schools of India are out for the year 2011.
This time the study was conducted by Economic Times and ratified by a consulting major who collected a total of 253 responses across the 5 functional areas with 31 IT Heads, 38 Finance Head, 97 HR Head, 34 Production/Manufacturing Head was achieved. Finally a study that is ranking the institutes based on what the actual rank is, based on the performances of the students and not on the perceptions of MBA Wannabes, and hence a lot more accurate and relevant for MBA Wannabes.

Michael Porter’s 5 forces model

Porter’s 5 forces model is one of the most recognized framework for the analysis of business strategy. Porter, the guru of modern day business strategy, used theoretical frameworks derived from Industrial Organization (IO) economics to derive five forces which determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market. This theoretical framework, based on 5 forces, describes the attributes of an attractive industry and thus suggests when opportunities will be greater, and threats less, in these of industries.

Continue reading “Michael Porter’s 5 forces model”

Top Online Strategy Games for Business Students

Strategy can be best understood through simulation games. What better training for a manager than to understand business strategy than to react to simulated market responses as provided by these games? Simulation games ensure that the attempted knowledge imparted in classrooms are driven to the core of the students to a stage where it is assimilated and can be implemented by the student, rather than staying at a superficial text-book knowledge level.

If you as an instructor or a student are still not sure how these strategy simulation games will help you, this article may interest you “From e-learning to games-based e-learning: using interactive technologies in teaching an IS course”, by Thomas M. Connolly, Mark Stansfield, published in journal, International Journal of Information Technology and Management, Volume 6 Issue 2-4, June 2007

  • Mike Bikes advanced strategic simulation game ensures learning whereby students form the management team of a Bicycle Manufacturing company making all the key functional decisions involving Price, Marketing, Distribution, Finance, Operations, HR, and R&D
  • In Industry Player (.) comby Tycoon Systems, students create and manage their own company. In real-time, they experience a multiplayer competition for market leadership and shareholder value within a simulation of real world economy.
  • Marketplace-live is an advanced simulation game students start a firm in the microcomputer industry. Students experience real time challenges in Marketing, Product Development, Accounting, Finance and Manufacturing Fundamentals, Financial Analysis, Business Partner Negotiations, Human Resource Management and e-Commerce.
  • The Price Strategy Simulator by Michael Bean ensures students get a feel of pricing strategies at war through a simulation of Price Wars amongst Hewlett-Packard / Compaq and Dell. IBM enters the competition and an excellent pricing strategy simulation learning is ensured.

Faculties and students who would be interested for more details on the use of Simulation games would be encourage to buy this book from Amazon “The Global Business Game: A Simulation in Strategic Management and International Business” by Joseph Wolfe. Now, using the Amazon banner in this website, Business-Fundas readers can avail of a special discount.

While most of the previously mentioned games were for Business School students, there are quite a few games which will develop the intellect of younger students. A few descriptions of the same are provided below.

  • In a world of online simulation games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there is a deep need to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. One such game is the ROMper Room, where focus is more on intellectual stimulation.
  • Some basic Strategy and Time Management online games are also available at freeworldgroup website. These games are meant for those who are attempting to enhance their personal development skills and time management skills although they may seem redundant to graduate management students.

Generic Strategies for the Ultimate Competitive Advantage

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” ~ Jack Welch

Today, the firms operate in an even more competitive industry dictated by an ever unparalleled dynamism. Jack Welch never said anything more meaningful. In current times, when change is the only thing that is constant, a firm’s ability to learn, and more importantly “unlearn and then relearn” creates the most important distinguishing factor for sustainable competitive advantage.

Michael Porter’s framework for competitive advantage probably explains few of the focus issues firms may keep in mind while formulating strategies at the top level.

However, this is the way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage and a firm’s top executive needs to understand the core to his firm, based on which he can take this call. However, due to the dynamism of the industry structure, he needs to continually analyze and re-evaluate his strategies, based on the core.

A firm probably has multiple dimensions of personality traits, talents, resources and skills, and hundreds of other characteristics, but what is it that when all the others are surgically removed distinguishes the character of the firm at the very core? This is essentially the key which needs to be leveraged successfully and innovated upon continually to attain that otherwise illusive competitive advantage.

So how does one recognize one’s core?

One may argue that achieving “customer loyalty” may be a step towards achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don’t see too many executives saying they don’t want more of them. But in spite of that what intrigues me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs. But in spite of  “customers” being a crucial focal point for business, it is required to recognize that in current times, the very nature of business is evolving. With the very definition of a firm’s role in an industry or even the definition of the industry under such a strict evolution, it is crucial to note that the very target customers are deemed to change in this dynamic market structure. So identifying and acquiring new customers, in spite of the spiraling costs of new customer acquisitions, may play a key role for sustenance.

Thus a firm’s source of resources for the “Ultimate Competitive Advantage” is much more than the sources of revenue. Smaller firms whose ability to learn and “unlearn and then relearn”have reaped the benefits in the past. The problem started after they grew to a certain size where they couldn’t stay so nimble on their feet, and faced competition from other firms, who were more adaptive to the dynamic industry structure.

Sometimes, one tends to think that probably a firm’s organization structure and the culture is the inherent and most important source of competitive advantage. But how can a firm leverage that to quantifiable profits since at the end of the day, business decisions are based on ROI figures and financial achievements. This is probably where a firm needs to rediscover itself.