Subject: Re: Wal-mart drives software industry
From: "Brian J. Fox" <bfox@ua.com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 02:05:04 -0800


   Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2002 21:17:14 -0800 (PST)
   From: Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com>

	  IT is generally a risk, not a competitive advantage.  There are a few
	  exceptions.  Some companies have chosen to make IT a competitive
	  differentiator (Wal-Mart comes to mind).  But that is not the general
	  case.

	  Most companies differentiate from their competitors on the
	  product they sell.  If their IT infrastructure is the same as
	  their competitor, then that's one less thing for them to worry
	  about.  It allows them to concentrate on competing around the
	  product, not around something (IT) that isn't necessarily a
	  core strength.


   Well, there's all the companies that have taken a beating from
   Wal-Mart.  There's telecom, at least for some definition of IT.
   There's the automative industry and the transformations it's
   undergoing; other manufacturing sectors too.  Everything related to
   shipping.

I'd like to point out that Ian expressed the opinions of his
*customers*, and, in doing so, demonstrated that he knows how his
customers think.

   There's also a kind of grass-roots IT to approach indirectly: e.g. I
   know of a bunch of small restaurants that would benefit from more
   facile supply chain management.

Someone would have to sell these resturants a solution -- something
that solves a pain or need.  No matter what your speculation, you
won't know what the customer wants until you talk to the customer and
find out.  (And supply chain isn't solvable at the resturant.)

   Selling to them individually wouldn't be a win for a big company,

Smart & Final might be able to sell to this customer base -- that's
their business: http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=SMF&script=400

   but focusing on the tools and infrastructure that can benefit such
   shops generally might be a reasonable idea.

Okay, so now your customer is an OEM or ISV who supplys technical
goods to resturatuers.  No problem -- but you still need to solve
*their* pain -- you need to talk to them to find out what their pain
is.

   Just generally, in more than one city I've visited or lived in,
   there's a local day-to-day economy that runs on early-20th century
   mechanisms.  Moreover, those mechanisms aren't working as well as
   they did in the early 20th century because the context has changed:
   the number of regional importers has dwindled, the old
   communications and transportation infrastructure disappeared,
   consumer habits have changed, and consequently harmful monopolies
   have become entrenched.  The stuff we think about doing on a global
   scale with 1000 big companies also makes sense about doing on a
   local scale with 1000 little companies.

I don't disagree with your assessment that technology could be better
used in many venues that we all see day-to-day.  But I urge you to
understand the typical Mom & Pop by simply *talking* to them.
Tomorrow, when you go about your business in the outside world, think
of cool technical solutions for each shop that you go to, and talk to
the owner or manager for a couple of minutes.  Don't try to sell them
anything, because you don't have anything to sell them yet.  Instead,
engage them in conversation, and let them tell you what's wrong.

Be fanciful, and paint beautiful pictures of all-encompassing
infrastructure that directly addresses their needs.

Now, experience already tells me what they will say.  But until you've
*talked to your customer* you won't know how they think, and what they
might buy -- either from you directly, or indirectly through an ISV.

Brian
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