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How to stop 5 catastrophic corporate practices

Rob Enderle | Feb. 17, 2015
Companies regularly make these five mistakes with the false belief that they are best practices when they are, in fact, anything but best, writes Rob Enderle.

3. Not Learning From the Past
This comes up a lot in Internet of Things (IoT) conversations. Working on smart connected devices goes back to the 1960s and the area is littered with the bodies of failed companies. Yet many firms are approaching this new opportunity as if these old experiences didn't exist and therefore, will undoubtedly repeat many of the same catastrophic mistakes.

This is kind of like trying to navigate a new city without using a map or GPS device, it rarely ends well. George Santayana's famous quote says it best, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

Learning from the past can be scary but it can also point out landmines and provide a much more inexpensive way to learn a new area than by trial and error. At the very least, you can often hire people that have been through some of these painful mistakes and use them kind of like you'd use a canary in a coal mine, to identify a problem before you run head on into it.

4. Keeping Marketing Out of Development
This is kind of a technology company tradition. You develop a product without any consideration for how it will be sold and then at the last moment toss it over to marketing with the mission of developing demand for it. When demand doesn't develop you look dumbfounded because all of the developers were sure it was going to be a winner and end up blaming marketing.

The worst experience I had was while working at IBM in marketing and being given the task of developing a marketing program for a product when the product owner couldn't identify a single real customer that had defined the offering. After being escalated and having $20,000 spent on a marketing study it was determined that this product, which cost $20 Million to create, had no market -- in fact was no one that was even remotely interested in buying it.

Chances are that if marketing isn't involved in the front-end of product creation, setting the actual specs, then the customer isn't either and the end result will be a product that doesn't sell well or at all.

The goal isn't to get a product released, it is to sell the damn thing, yet more effort goes into assuring development dates than in assuring there is a market for the result. Not getting marketing involved early in development is not only a losing strategy it is unfortunately an almost universal practice.

5. Focusing on Blame
This is scary stupid yet it is an extremely common practice. The first response when something goes wrong is often to identify the person responsible and then fire them. Often this becomes kind of a game of musical chairs where the person with the poorest connections is the one left standing when the music stops. You particularly see this behavior when you have repetitive CEO firings. CEO A fails, CEO B is hired, CEO B fails, and CEO C is hired and so on until the company itself fails or is sold.


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