Category Archives: Decision Making

Storytelling for Children and Executives

The Wall Street Journal tells how the CEO of Procter and Gamble is more interested in the storyteller than in the powerpoint slides. Therefore presentations should have powerful stories.

Mr. Atkinson suggests organizing your story into three acts and starting by establishing context. You want to let your audience know who the main characters are, what the background of the story is, and what you’d like to accomplish by telling it, he says. You might open, for example, by describing a department that’s consistently failed to meet sales goals.

Move on to how your main character—you or the company—fights to resolve the conflicts that create tension in the story, Mr. Atkinson says. Success may require the main character to make additional capital investments or take on new training. Provide real-world examples and detail that can anchor the narrative, he advises.

The ending should inspire a call to action, since you are allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about your story versus just telling them what to do. Don’t be afraid to use your own failures in support of your main points, says Mr. Smith.

Whatever you do, don’t preface your story with an apology or ask permission to tell it. Be confident that your story has enough relevance to be told and just launch into it, says Mr. Smith. Confidence and authority, he says, help to sell the idea to your audience.

The idea here is not new. Humans are more receptive to stories than to data. The powerful message that was omitted, however, was that while people are more receptive to anecdotes than boring powerpoint presentations, good decisions are made based on information. A story backed up by data combines the power of human psychology with the power of knowledge.

Ethics in the Era of the Consultant

Howard Gardner, the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, tells us that the time has come to reinvent ethics to fit our “modern” society. His conclusion: “If we can draw on wise people across the age spectrum, and enable virtual as well as face-to-face discussion,  we are most likely to arrive at an ethical landscape adequate for our time.” In short, the consultant model: a team of a few analysts, a manager, and a senior partner via both face-to-face meetings and conference calls can tell us how to lead our lives in optimal fashion. Thank you, Howard, for that insight. Do you prefer skype or polycom?

How to Make a Bad Idea Good (or at least less bad)

I’ve been reading a lot of pitches lately, and many are obviously ill-fated. Here are some themes that would benefit most of them:

1) Cut the budget in half. Costs will be higher than expected, and returns will be lower than expected. Inflated numbers won’t fool anyone.

2) Plan the project in multiple phases. Then focus on phase 1 – it should make sense on its own.If it’s only value comes from the success of future phases, then that’s a problem.

3) If you can’t even explain it clearly, then what chance does it have of actually working? Simplify.

4) Money does not equal marketing does not equal success. There is often low correlation between each.

5) Time is not money. Spend the time, don’t spend the money. If your team doesn’t have the in-house capabilities, then it’s not the right team for the project.

6) Experience matters – but experience doesn’t matter. Past successes are great, but what’s even better is experience that will help with the current idea.

7) Think small – but be ready for success. How will the idea scale if it turns out to work?

8) How will it fail? How long will it take? How much will it cost? Will there be any salvageable value?

AnythingResearch.com – Industry Analytics and Research

AnythingResearch.com has released 2009 research reports on over a thousand industries providing instantaneous access to market size, typical financials (e.g., income statement, balance sheet), salary benchmarks, etc etc.

The goal is to shed light on  small businesses in “main street” industries by providing accurate and detailed statistics.

http://www.AnythingResearch.com

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Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) Hosting Market Opportunity Analysis

MARKET OPPORTUNITY

The MMOG market is expected to double in the next five years. MMOGs differ from typical computer games because they are perpetual virtual worlds, meaning that users can continue to play forever building on previous play. New players are constantly starting to play these game and continue playing them, creating a snowballing user base.

Traditional game developers are beginning to discover a new sources of revenue from MMOGs. The developers typically offer a free version or trial period to attract users, and then a subscription-based version (typically $10-$20/month) to keep the on going revenue stream. In the future, MMOGs are likely to generate additional revenue through advertising and non-traditional revenue sources such as virtual sale items.

Overall, DFC Intelligence estimates the market will double by 2012, reaching $13B worldwide. Half the revenue will come from East Asia, 25% from North America, and the remainder from Europe and Japan.

MAJOR GAME OPERATORS

The 15 largest MMO Games are as follows:

MMOG List

Of these fifteen MMOGs, the fastest growing (based on 2006-2007 subscribers) are:

  • World of Warcraft
  • Second Life
  • Guild Wars
  • Dofus
  • Runescape

Additionally, the following venture-backed MMOG developers are likely to launch in the next 1-2 years:

  • Real Time Worlds will be launching “APB” in 2008
  • Red 5 Studios is developing an as-yet unnamed MMOG
  • Areae is developing an as-yet unnamed MMOG

MMOG HOSTING and IT REQUIREMENTS

Leading MMOG Hosting companies:

  • AT&T
  • Online Game Services (OGSi)
  • Hypernia
  • Valve Software

Additional hosting companies used by MMOGs:

  • APIServers (www.apiservers.com)
  • Go Daddy (www.godaddy.com)
  • JHServers (www.jhservers.com)
  • ServePath (www.servepath.com)

Most game developers do not have the capabilities to host games themselves. Rather, they rely on outsourced MMOG hosting services. Even the largest MMOG developers such as Blizzard, Activision and Electronic Arts use third party MMOG hosting services.

Whether an MMOG game developer is hosting a game in-house or outsourcing it to a hosting company, the following three issues are most important in selecting IT vendors:

  1. Price – minimize price of both hardware and bandwidth. A rough estimate for hosting prices for 100k subs requires 30 servers plus bandwidth and costs $50k/month. (Note this includes ammortized hardware costs, bandwidth, and managed services)
  2. System stability and scalability – ensure data isn’t lost or corrupted and system can scale to handle growing subscriber base.
  3. Bandwidth and latency – maximize uptime at all hours of the day, since most MMOGs are highly international and cross all time zones. Provide sufficient bandwidth for peak usage. Minimize latency by using NOCs collocated near major POPs and with localization in areas with large numbers of gamers.

The largest IT vendors for the MMOG market are IBM, HP, and Dell.

ENTERING THE MMOG MARKET

A vendor seeking to serve the emerging MMOG market should take the following approaches:

1) Target both large MMOG developers that do their own hosting and also outsourced MMOG hosting companies. To avoid competing on price, focus on system stability, scalability, and management tools that can support the MMOG environment.

2) Focus on the development stage. Historically, MMOGs could be hosted on any vendor’s hardware, but as developers seek to increase system stability they are increasingly becoming platform dependent. This means that if an MMOG developer uses a specific vendor’s hardware for development and testing, they are likely to request the same vendor’s hardware for hosting.

In order to assess exactly how a company can enter this market, it is necessary to understand how the company is currently positioned. The Ansoff matrix provides a basic framework to understand what type of entry is needed – based upon a company’s product portfolio and market space.

Ansoff Matrix

A go-to-market strategy required for a Market Development play is quite different from those required for a Product Development play, and different still from Diversification.

One of the immediate next steps to take will be to benchmark your company’s current status along key dimensions. Using a “Points of Differentiation” graph, it is possible to tailor the go-to-market strategy to take advantage of the company’s strengths.

Points of Differentiation

In the example above, a company may be strong in performance, reliability, average in scalability, reputation, service and price, and weak in value-added services. After analyzing other vendors using a similar framework, a company with these particular points of differentiation might choose to focus on midsized MMOGs with 100k-200k subscribers.
SOURCES

MMOG Data
http://mmogdata.voig.com

DFC Intelligence – Online Game Market Forecast
http://www.dfcint.com/game_article/may07article.html

IGDA (International Game Developers Association) – Hardware and Hosting
http://www.igda.org/online/quarterly/1_3/persistenthw.php

GigaOM Top 10 Most Popular MMOs
http://gigaom.com/2007/06/13/top-ten-most-popular-mmos

MMORPG Developer’s Forum
http://mmorpgmaker.vault.ign.com/phpBB2/index.php

FURTHER READING

IDC – ASEAN Online Gaming 2007 – 2011 Forecast and Analysis
http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=AP3221S4P

IDC – China Gaming 2007-2011 Forecast and Analysis
http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=CN656102P

IDC – India Online Gaming 2007–2011 Forecast and Analysis
http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=AP3221SSP

Decision-making for high-speed motorcycle racing

In Keith Code’s definitive road racer’s handbook, he describe the process of motorcycle racing as a series of decisions made in rapid succession. According to Code, there are two approaches to making a decision:

  • Trial & Error is about experimentation – knowing the various options and what prior outcomes have been – and using “gut instinct” to decide on an appropriate action
  • Thinking It Through is about analysis and planning. The drawback, Code notes, is that it requires “starting with correct information.” (i.e., Garbage In / Garbage Out)

The best approach in racing, he believes, is to use a combination of the two methods – when you’re not on the track, there’s plenty of time to “Think It Through.” And when you are on the track, to experiment through trial and error.