Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do we need 'experts' in a business?

The answer to this depends a lot on the type of business or the objectives. E.g. if you look at a specialty medical clinic, a specialty fitness center, etc, these places need full time experts to handle the inflow of business on a one to one basis. To scale, these business will need more experts at the different locations. If the expert leaves, it is possible that he would leave a void n the business. Whereas when we talk of a software product business, do we need experts? The answer is of course YES. These experts provide the domain knowledge, they bring in their experience from other jobs, they can crack through problems quickly and they are extremely useful in providing the breakthrough ideas. This is especially very true for a startup trying to bring out its idea to the market. But be warned, working with experts in a startup company is a double-edged sword. For a startup in version 1 or 2 of its product, it can get very easily carried away by seeing something working in the R&D lab (read a very early 'prototype') and be tempted to offer it as a solution to the early customers (in an effort to gather the mind share of maximum customers quickly). In such a situation, depending on the complexity of the software, you may need the very expert, who 'prototyped' the solution, to go and deploy it at the customer location.

This model may work if you limit this exercise to learning from a few deployments (real life scenarios, with the customer's consent) and feeding it back into the prototype and then towards completion. However this very model can backfire if you do too many of these 'prototype' deployments without 'heat treating' the solution within a controlled environment. For all such live deployments, you run a risk of discovering bugs on the customer server (some of which could be dangerous), you always need the expert to maintain these deployments (God only knows what else he did on the customer's server while he was onsite doing the deployment), and you run the risk of overloading the customer support group with emergencies which could well have been avoided in the first place (customer's expectations are not set right and for the customer this is a finished product).

My advice to startups in this mode is to use experts in the research lab to discover solutions, break it down into small & complete deliverables (you don’t want to put out a very mature solution which may not have been tempered enough by customer feedback), do a thorough in house test of the solution or at least the first deliverable (any product you make should be used in house from day 1 - eat your own dog meat), test in a live situation for a few select customers by interacting with them on a one to one basis (don’t put up these solutions on your marketing material unless they are heat treated) and then incorporating it in your product for replication.

So, YES we need experts to provide answers BUT we need systems and processes to capture their output in the business flow for replication and scale.

7 comments:

heavenlyman said...

Seeking experts in bussiness is a good idea to keep the momentum. it's very interesting to speak about. but we've forgotten one matter right from the basics. nobody is born as an expert in his domain he's working right now.
And no student is compared with his teacher but he who's trained perfectly resembles his teacher. then only he'll fit into his teacher's shoes. it's the fact and nobody denies it. we need to handle the current crisis in the IT industry. we need to train a non-expert along with expert. if expert suddenly leaves, then non-expert will wear his shoes. it must continue as long as the company remains. speaking about positive effects on the work from the expert is good to listen. but we shouldn't forget the negative side effects that we'll face when the crisis arises. keeping it in view we must act wisely to deal the matter.

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Hello ...

My name is Stacy H. I love how you talk about this in your blog ... I feel much passion for the business ... I love the subject and also keep me informed about this. I hope some day be a great businesswoman and develop in this area that I like.

Many thanks for your help ..

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