Archive for the ‘Personal Views and Philosophy’ Category

The Concorde Fallacy

And other reasons why Embedded Managers, executives and CFOs Make Avoidable and Counterproductive Marketing Decisions

Asking the Important Questions

 

A Related Perspective:

 

I asked my colleague Steve Roemerman, CEO of Lone Star (a highly respected consulting company to business and to the military) and former senior VP at Texas Instruments (TI) and president of Raytheon Dallas, to review this paper from his perspective to see if he was experiencing similar encounters. He replied as follows (with his permission):

 

“It is ironic that you sent me this while I’m looking at some research on psychological effects related to “Prospect Theory” for some work we are doing on modeling how companies bid in auction situations. There is something over 150 named biases, fallacies and other effects related to cognitive errors in decision making. The nature of humans is to make flawed judgments choosing what to consider, in the way we gather what we’ve chosen, and how to use the data we get. It is nearly impossible to do your own research and build your own models. So, insourcing this kind of work has its limits.

 

“To me, the Dashboard is a unique value proposition, which makes the inside/outside distinction less stark. It makes the internal team more reliable, and provides them unbiased data to use, or to contrast with their own findings.

 

“I had lunch with the head of strategy for Wal-Mart. I asked him about their modeling for holiday sales. This is THE most important analysis for any retailer. He told me they run 5 – 7 different models each year. Two of them are Wal-Mart internal tools. He said they think they are the best in the world. I asked why buy the others if you have the best. He told me they valued the contrast, and they knew that even the best in the world is not the same as “always right.”

 

 

And Now the Rest of the Story

 

As a matter of background, Dolores is a retired teacher who specialized in data-based development of educational literacy programs. Having more than enough credits to gain a Ph.D. she chose not to waste a year writing a thesis as she chose to be in the classroom anyway. She has spent the past eight years learning about embedded technology. In short, she’s no dummy.

 

Being a curious person she would often ask vendors such questions as:

 

  • How much do you spend on your marketing efforts?
  • Where do you get your data?
  • How many people do you pay to get the data for you?
  • Why do you think that speaking to a few customers actually gets you the market insights on which your company depends?

 

She would then ask them why they are willing to spend so much money on internal marketing assistants when they can get comprehensive data and a tool by which they can examine the marketplace from their own perspective. They can get it all for around $1000/month.

 

They usually say that they don’t have a budget for this. Dolores was having none of this. She would constantly badger me with the obvious question: Why would such highly intelligent and experienced folks waste money and potential markets and ignore data shared with them that has immediate implications to their business? The 2nd most offered excuse we heard from marketing directors and VPs was “I really don’t have the time to look at the data”. “How then”, she would ask, “Can you do your job effectively?”

 

I confessed that I couldn’t explain it – and many such professionals are friends and colleagues who love the data but “don’t have time to address it”. Dolores questions why this wasn’t included in my MBA program and I have no good response to the questions from a results oriented educational professional.

 

Recently, I was reading the new book (Think Like a Freak, William Morrow/Harper Collins) from my favorite economists Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner (of Freakonomics fame) that gave me some ideas that I immediately discussed with Dolores. After thinking about it she said that it made sense to her and might explain why things are as they are.

 

She encouraged us to write about these thoughts to share with our friends and colleagues (we are too old to care if some don’t agree). So we broke it out as follows – we encourage feedback of all types.

 

  • Concorde Fallacy – or why is failure preferable to admitting a mistake and changing direction
  • Going Against the Facts: If one is presented compelling information-based data that shows the best options for success, why are they frequently ignored?
  • The plural of Anecdote is NOT Data – or why case studies are an easy way to explain away poor sales. There is safety is being able to point to meaningless information and justify going the same direction as everyone else
  • Secrets of Data Acquisition: No data is better than bad data – how surveys and case studies can mislead and how to get the best information out of them

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ATEGO REDUX: ATEGO COMES OF AGE

Ignoring important business information in order to
save money is like saving up sex for your old age. What we learn from history
is that people don’t learn from history – Warren Buffet

 

Despite a plethora of negative publicity and bad relationships with the industry’s press, analysts and other vendors, Atego, due to the efforts of Dr Jay Gambrell its founding chairman,
has reorganized its management problems and proven that it is financially sound and technologically competitive. During these difficult times, the company has kept pace with the quality of its MDD (model driven development) products and has remained a leader in the Ada market space.

Let me state as a matter of full disclosure that I have in the past been a not-to-polite critic of Atego and its management. Hence it is only fair that I report on the positive changes that have occurred and address the topic that I previously found to be of concern.

A company is judged by factors not necessarily related to product offerings and quality. It is incumbent that a company maintains positive relations with the press and industry analysts. With all the changes at the company, it might be construed that the company is failing and it’s best to avoid dealing with it. It takes a strong executive, once having been made aware, to ensure that changes are made.

To summarize:

1) MDD developments have been shown to reduce development cost (as compared with similar
developments that didn’t use MDD) by more than 30%

2) Artisan Studio users enjoyed similar results that are comparable to IBM’s Rhapsody product

3) Atego has made management changes and placed an emphasis on positive relationships within the
industry.

4) Atego has reorganized their marketing efforts freeing up their staff to better interact
with customers as well as with vendors and the press.

5) Atego bought IBM Rational’s Ada product line to consolidate their marketing and sales efforts in this market
segment. Atego inherited Rational’s Ada customers, many of whom remain IBM customers for other products.

Let me address the rumors that Atego is financially vulnerable. Let’s face it – I’m capable of reading abalance sheet, but not sufficiently sophisticated to be able to detect financial slight of hand. While Atego now boasts a much larger balance sheet and revenue and profit line, I still believe when  it comes to ascertaining Atego’s financial well being I rely on IBM Rational, one of the best managed companies in the world.

For IBM to entrust Atego with their customer base that not only used their Ada products but many of the other IBM products as well, they certainly did a detailed and exhaustive analysis of Atego and their long term viability. For me, that is the most compelling reason to dispel any rumors of financial instability. And they did this in spite of the fact that Atego’s biggest competitor for modeling is IBM!

Let me point out that financial strength and operating profitability are different. Atego remains profitable, but their activities and expenditures are closely watched, as they should be in a responsibly managed company. Atego claims to be the largest independent embedded tools provider – a reputation they will have to earn again and again every day.

I find Gambrell, who has an extensive banking background, to be a most responsible executive – which also gives me confidence in Atego’s future.

As a former Executive VP of a public medical devices company, I have personally encountered problems with recalcitrant managers that tried to build personal empires at the expense of the company that paid their salaries. I was fortunate to have had feedback from our marketplace from individuals who were so incensed at their treatment that they took the effort to complain (loudly and without limiting their use of language for emphasis) to me personally. Some might consider these folks to have a pathological need to bitch – for me they were a godsend that enabled me to correct problems that could have adversely impacted our emerging company.

So it is in my business DNA to offer unsolicited (and perhaps unwanted) information. It is to Gambrell’s credit that he didn’t dismiss the bad news as being from a pain in the butt.

I did tell Jay that I’ll have to find a new target for my somewhat slanted sense of humor – but that I’m delighted for his success. Now I can focus my efforts on delving into the more recent and promised product offerings coming from Atego. There are several promising process related tools coming, so let’s see what a renewed focus from Atego will deliver. This will not keep me from being a critic if I see fit – but I’m excited for the industry that an alternative modeling compny has come of age

For those that might remember my comment that “the wheel is spinning but the gerbil is dead”, I’m glad toreport that the gerbil is doing fine.

 

What We Need is another Sputnik

On a personal note, it was in October 1957 that the world awoke to the beep-beep sounds of the Russian launched Sputnik satellite. And the race was on.

I was a first semester freshman EE student at Washington University (St. Louis) – and we were abuzz with the implications. I was too young to understand my good fortune in choosing EE over Chemical Engineering – but it was an exciting time.

In April 1961 The Russians launched Yuri Gagarin and his Vostok 1 spacecraft into orbit making him the first human in space (Alan Shepard was to fly in March 1961 but his flight was put off until May 5, 1961).

Jack Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election in a close finish over Richard Nixon (thanks to a 120% voter turn out in Chicago – and Nixon refusing to challenge that vote). President Kennedy challenged us to “put a man on the moon within the decade”. The technologies to make this happen hadn’t been invented yet, and the collateral off shoots of the space program made possible microprocessors, advance medical devices, enhanced communication systems. For the billions the government invested in the Program, the payback was measured in the trillions of dollars that accrued to our economy not to mention the giant leap in our life styles that this technology afforded us.

So how did Kennedy, the supposed liberal, pay for this? He lowered taxes and encouraged and supported private businesses which resulted in enhanced revenues for the US Treasury. This will probably come as a shock to most progressives today – particularly those that loved Jack Kennedy (maybe they got confused with the actions of his brother Teddy). Lower taxes and eliminating unreasonable restrictions on small business resulted in a large increase in US revenues.

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Establishing a value for Market Intelligence? Can you avoid the Coming Embedded Tsunami?

We all can agree that good market information is essential for a company’s growth, competitive and strategic planning and sales support.

 Giving up

 

        

       But what is worse – bad information or no information whatsoever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read a story about an explorer looking for artifacts along the Amazon River when he happened upon some 50 or more tribesmen each carrying spears. Fearing for his life he cried out “Dear Lord I’m totally screwed”. A dark cloud appeared and a loud voice cried out, “you are NOT screwed – pick up the stone in front of you and kill the chief.” The man picked up and threw the stone hitting the chief in the head, killing him instantly.

The explorer looked up to see more than 50 tribesmen running at him aiming their spears at him. Looking up to the dark cloud, he heard the voice say “NOW you’re screwed!”

 

This is what Dolores and I ponder when we are publishing survey-based market intelligence and using it to address opportunities and threats that confront our subscribers. Giving advice is easy – giving “good” advice based on statistically accurate comprehensive surveys is essential.  

 

We carefully track what we and what others publish and how close each of us comes to correctly forecasting the marketplace. As Dolores is relatively new to our industry, she is finding it hard to understand why market research groups that have been grossly wrong made much more money than we did. Dolores was beside herself asking what happened to those companies that got it wrong. The answer is nothing – newer companies bought their research and the analysts that were wrong found new lines of work. We, on the other hand, have been here for 15 years and plan to be here a lot longer.

 

Before we get to our forecasts, let me provide some background. Perhaps some of you can help me answer some of Dolores’ questions – questions that I wish I could answer. Times have changed since I was on your side of the industry.

 

 A bit of background:

 

Dolores moved from education to the dreaded private sector when we became engaged some 5 years ago. Though having sufficient credits to complete a Ph.D. in performance analysis for validating student progress (skills that would bide her well at EMF), she was already at the highest pay level she could attain and she was more interested in seeing student improvement first hand, rather than theorizing about it and writing papers for her peers.

 

The professional environment in which she performed was union-based and raises were predicated on time on the job, degrees and post-graduate credits – actual performance was not a consideration and tenure was earned in as little as 3 years.

 

Her transition to our performance-based world was easy – she studied hard and attended many conferences and technical presentations over the years, yet her background in data analysis and performance outcomes supported her curiosity regarding how businesses grow or fail based on how they use available information for strategic planning, competitive analysis and sales support. Not only was she able to support my data-mining efforts with her experience, but she is able to ask embarrassing questions of me when she read (and schoolmarmed) my reports.

 

As embedded professionals, perhaps you can relate to the questions she has asked – and maybe provide us some feedback.

 

It usually begins with “I’m sure that this is a stupid question, but …” If I can’t explain it to her, then I probably didn’t think it through sufficiently.

 

Here are some of the many questions that she asks about companies in the embedded industry that I have a hard time answering:

 

1)     Why do companies with very smart people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sales development and much less on marketing?

2)     Why to companies that understand the value of marketing for sales and competitive positioning – and spend in some cases millions of dollars in their marketing efforts – spend very little on detailed, relevant and comprehensive market intelligence information?

3)     Why do these very smart people choose to ignore clear market signs (even when made aware of them) that can significantly impact current markets, future revenue streams and company survival?

4)     Why do so many European-based company CEOs micromanage their executives instead of hiring the best and freeing them up to success? Is this a better approach to corporate controls?

 

Forgive what might be construed as a commercial – what really drives her buggy is that she asks me (and not infrequently potential subscribers) “Tell me what I’m missing here; Companies can have access to detailed data that they can use for sales promotion, strategic planning, and competitive analysis for less than one-fourth what they pay for an administrative assistant. Moreover, they can have access to the information that the US military and many prime contractors have about them in order to better respond. Why isn’t someone fired?”

 

 

 What’s on the Embedded Horizon?  EMF’s look at markets that are in transition – creating opportunities as well as threats

 

Looking at Mobile Devices and Consumer Electronics

 

If you are in – or looking to get into – this market segment you will find plentiful opportunities and incredible challenges. New processors and new platforms are appearing regularly and the fickle user base will drop you without hesitation. Now that analog TV signals have gone the way of the Platypus, the FCC is assigning these “white channels” for public use. Herein we will see long range WiFi, and enhanced data handling capabilities that will provide new and dazzling apps that will drive newer markets. Time-to-market will be a crucial consideration, so the ability to reuse code and to apply such code to new interfaces and hardware will determine who will win and who will lose.

 

Do you provide mobile or consumer electronic products or applications? Do you know what processors, OSes and platforms provide better and timelier design outcomes? Does it matter to you? Is your resume up to date?

 

Looking at Medical Devices

 

If we separate medical devices into two cadres; one that supports devices that are attended to by medical staff (ultrasound, CAT scans, renal dialysis, etc.), the other that needs to operate independently of medical support staff (patient monitoring) we see that the same technology that keep military and commercial aircraft operating under secure and mission critical conditions is overkill for medical applications.

 

Did you know?

 

  • The medical device marketplace has been growing at a double digit rate – and new considerations should enhance opportunities for embedded vendors in 2011 – IF they take the time to correctly understand the selling points
  • Considerable attention has been given to the medical marketplace by vendors seeking a safe haven from the expected decline in mil/aero. EMF believes that many such vendors don’t understand the market segment, how to sell to it, or what the users need and will purchase
  • It would be funny if it wasn’t sad that certain leading RTOS vendors are pushing their certified high power, mission critical OSes towards an industry that develops products whose defining frequency requirements are less than 100 Hz
  • New CDRH/FDA initiatives are acting to create opportunities and threats.

 

Having brought many products through the 510k process and to market, and understanding the purchasing value system within the medical device marketplace, I am amused at the hundreds of thousands of dollars that vendors throw away on pursuing meaningless approaches to this marketplace. Dolores gets the “everything looks like a nail theory” and it was hard for her to keep a straight face when one colleague who is a vendor’s VP told us that it took them a year (and mucho dinero) to discover that what we gave them for free was correct.

 

The Coming Tsunami

The Aerospace and Defense Industries of the United States are poised to undergo one of the most significant changes since the end of the Cold War; perhaps the most significant since World War II. We believe that observers (embedded vendors included) who expect small changes are mistaken, thereby fostering a false and dangerous sense of security across much of the industry and government.

 

The impact to our economy goes far beyond our current financial problems and involves fundamental structural changes taking place in the industry and in the market. As in prior shifts of this nature, there will be winners and losers – however these shifts may be profound, creating more dramatic winners and losers than in the last cycle.

 

The impact of major primes shifting financial challenges to their vendors (and by association to embedded sub-vendors) will reach down into the value chain, in some cases devastating naïve second and third tier vendors.

 

To make matters more challenging for industry, as spending draws down, the effect on industry will be dramatic beyond the proportions of top line reductions.  This will be caused by a squeeze on the so called “Investment Accounts.”  These Investment Accounts are the funds used for product development and buying equipment.

 

Embedded vendors that offer “high end” OSes and tools will be hardest hit as reductions in DoD discretionary funding and the actions of prime contractors to absorb overhead within the limits of their financial structure.

 

We expect to see reductions in outsourcing to and purchasing from embedded markets defined as “mission critical” and that involve MILS security, DO-178B, and virtualization technologies as these anticipated contractions take place over the ensuing 2-3 year period. Many high-end vendors are already looking to alternative markets to shore up expected reductions – but most lack the data to determine which markets they can competitively serve.

Medical Device Industry Redux: How Obama Care is penalizing the Industry

Failure is an Option – what Joe Biden should have said instead of dropping the F-Bomb

HealthCare2A few months back I gleefully reported what the voters of Massachusetts did for the medical device industry by electing Scott Brown as our new Senator. The US Senate had cobbled together a poor Health Care Bill in order to send it onto the House of Representatives assured that the Republicans would not win Kennedy’s seat and gain the blocking vote. It was, by admission of many Democratic Senators, a terrible bill – but that it would be cleaned up in a House-Senate conference. 

With Senator Brown finally seated it seemed to be a no-brainer that the Health Care Bill would have to be dropped or reconfigured as it would not stand a filibuster challenge.

I was one of those relieved given my concern for my beloved medical device industry which was going to be the scapegoat of the current administration and be severely taxed for no other reason than its name sounded a lot like the pharmaceutical industry. I felt that we had ducked a massive bullet.

The gross distortions in favor of forcing through the bill under Reconciliation were mind-numbing. How the public could be convinced that spending more than a trillion dollars would result in a “massive middle class tax reduction” and how could taking $500 billion out of Medicare “strengthen” it?

Here’s what has happened and what we might expect – how much more damage can Congress inflict before the November elections?

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A Happening in Massachusetts – and How a State Senator may have saved the Medical Device Industry

Vote

 

The State of Massachusetts had a special election to fill the seat held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Perhaps you heard of it.

Be warned – this is my first (and probably last) political blog. But I wanted to share with you what was the amazing response of our citizens – it wasn’t an election. It was a happening.

The Democratic primary was won in a landslide by Martha Coakley our Attorney General who promised, among other matters, to tax the medical devices industry (she didn’t say why – and didn’t think it was necessary to do so). In Massachusetts, Democratic registration is triple that of Republicans and our senators and representatives have all been Democrats for decades.

 

Notwithstanding my concern for my beloved medical device industry, it was going to be the scapegoat of the current administration and be severely taxed for no other reason than its name sounded a lot like the pharmaceutical industry. I was used to accepting the inevitable.

 

Confession is good for the soul – so let me share my long hidden shame. I have lived in Massachusetts 44 years. I came to work at MIT and attend medical school at Boston University. During that time I remained a fiscal conservative and registered Republican (who once had a Nixon sticker on my car) living in what we fondly call the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

 

Moreover, I built 4 medical device companies (helping take two public) while living in Massachusetts rather than moving to tax-free New Hampshire and paid the confiscatory taxes. Somehow, for a guy with 5 college degrees, I just didn’t get it.

 

My experience in politics was minimal. I once (as a university professor) ran for the local school committee (as a Republican) and lost to a soda jerk (Democrat) working at a local luncheonette who admitted to being virtually illiterate. I lost by only 2000 votes (unfortunately out of 4000 cast). I voted in national elections only for the fact that I wanted to see my neighbors at the local high school.

 

There didn’t seem to be a reason to go out in the cold to vote against the political machine for a state senator who was one of only a few Republican members of the Massachusetts legislature.

 

But then I noticed that the polls that once gave Coakley a 31% lead showed that Brown had drawn within 2 percentage points – and an amazing thing happened. People everywhere were cautiously asking “what do you think of Scott Brown?” When I answered that we were going to vote for him, we experienced an unusual outpouring – like a confessional (being Jewish – but having a Catholic wife – I can only assume that it’s this way). Registered Democrats and Independents were confessing that they saw a way out of this mess. Some were engineers, others teachers, others just working folks but they each understood that we can’t tax innovation and small businesses out of existence. And they were encouraged to participate and help get out the vote (Brown won by 5 percentage points).

 

Americans are resourceful and the emergence of and growth in medical, computer and embedded businesses are what gave us the greatest standard of living the world has ever seen. Small businesses contribute 80% of job growth. We have been tracking local and out of state technology (and energy) companies to get the pulse of future employment. I have spoken with engineers that are getting a lot of interviews (for when the crunch comes) but no offers. I’m told that companies are waiting to understand the financial risks they will have for funding employee health care under the proposed Senate and House bills. Also there is a fear as to which markets will be arbitrarily taxed (currently banks and healthcare – but potentially telecom) that need to be resolved before small and medium sized businesses will increase hiring.

 

So, for my friends, colleagues and neighbors this was not merely an election – this was a happening! I have received emails from colleagues around the USA expressing their joy and relief.

 

Even though the Senate will only have 41 Republican members, what happened January 19, 2010 in Massachusetts (known as the Scott heard around the world) may well be the dynamite that opens up the logjam that will help embedded vendors and developers get the loans and financing that they need to support growth.

 

Dolores, a lifelong Democrat who is equally frustrated about state politics, is now changing her registration to Independent. It’s hard to break an addiction.

 

Post Script: The Power of a Single potential vote

 Today, one day after the Massachusetts election, President Obama requested that his healthcare legislation be significantly scaled back to a less comprehensive but more affordable bill. This will reduce the need to tax the medical devices industry to pay for the larger proposed program.

Thanks Scott