Monthly Archives: January 2012

Study in Australia sponsored by the Australian government

Want to study for your Masters and Phd in Australia? Check out whether you can get a scholarship from the Australian government to do this down under. Click on the weblink below for further details.

http://scholarship.pahrodf.org/

To date, over 2,000 Filipinos had benefited from this Australian scholarship program since it was available in 1960 and over 400 of them in the last 5 years. Consider being one of them in next year’s group.

 

The value of technology in education

I have a high regard for the value of education in a person’s life and like the writer of this article, technology can help but cannot replace the value of a good teacher.

From TIME Magazine

Can Computers Replace Teachers?

Until we figure out how to best use technology in the classroom, the bells and whistles are often a distraction
26 January 2012
Thomas Tolstrup / Getty Images

THOMAS TOLSTRUP / GETTY IMAGES

Steve Jobs didn’t think that technology alone could fix what ails American education. It’s worth remembering that in the wake of last week’s breathless coverage of Apple’s new iBooks platform, which the company promises will radically change how students use and experience textbooks. Under Apple’s plan, companies and individuals will be able to self-publish textbooks, ideally creating a wider array of content. Students will be able to download and use these books on their iPad much like they would use a regular textbook — including highlighting passages, making notes and pulling out passages or chapters that are especially important to them. Apple says it also plans to cap the price of textbooks available through iBooks at $14.99, a significant departure from the price of many textbooks now.

(MORE: School of Thought: 12 Education Activists for 2012)

Critics were quick to pounce that Apple wasn’t being revolutionary enough. Former school superintendent and current ed-tech investor Tom Vander Ark chided Apple for not thinking past textbooks, which he considers hopelessly 20th century. Others worried that Apple’s real goal wasn’t to open up the textbook industry but to control it and profit from it through restrictive licensing agreements and a platform that dominates the market. I’m sure the for-profit company’s shareholders will be horrified at that news.

Let’s slow down. Textbooks or tools that look a lot like textbooks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And since high quality educational material isn’t cheap to generate, simply tearing down distribution barriers will only go so far in reducing the costs of producing good content. Lost in the heated claims, however, is a more fundamental question: what have educational technology efforts accomplished to date and what should we expect?

As a field, education is easily seduced by technological promises. Textbooks? Thomas Edison saw movies as way to replace them. In a prelude to today’s debates, the phonograph and film strip were lauded as technologies that could replace live teaching. These days, conservatives are in love with the idea that technology will not only shrink the number of in-classroom teachers but render the teachers’ unions obsolete.

The experience to date is less grandiose and more worrisome considering the billions that have been spent on technology in schools in the past few decades. Interactive whiteboards have been around since the early 1990s and done little to transform how teachers teach, and computers are often unaligned with classroom instruction, even though 90% of classrooms around the country have them. Still, according to Department of Education data from 2009, just 61% of students use computers to prepare texts “sometimes or often” and just 45% do more complicated tasks, for instance to “solve problems, analyze data, or perform calculations” on a regular basis.

(MORE: Rotherham: Parents Should Be Allowed to Choose Their Kids’ Teacher)

Usage aside, there is scant evidence that technology is improving learning — even the cheerleaders are reduced to arguing that various education technology tools are obvious rather than supported by much evidence. And when you watch, say, high school students use the Internet to prepare research papers, it’s questionable whether technology — especially when coupled with poorly trained teachers — isn’t doing more to enable the superficial rather than open up richer veins of information for students.

The reasons for the slow pace of change are as obvious as they are stubborn. Altering classroom and school practice in our wildly decentralized education system is always a slow process. Many teachers are not familiar with technology or how to use it in the classroom, and high-quality training programs — either in schools of education or as part of a teachers’ ongoing professional development — are rare. As always, there are few guides for educators to determine which products are any good.

There is, of course, still promise in education technology. When Dreambox Learning, an online math program for elementary-aged students, offered me a free trial to check it out, I did what I usually do with new educational tools — I put it to the ultimate panel of critics: my kids. Dreambox, which just this week announced a new series of lessons aligned to the nascent Common Core standards and free licenses for every school in the country, combines real content with an interactive format so kids are learning even when they think they’re just playing games. I’ve looked at a variety of products, and it’s one of the best in terms of powerful instruction. In a short time, it substantially boosted my kids’ math achievement. (They have a great teacher, too.) As for engagement? Maybe too much. One of my daughters woke me up at 5 am the other day because she wanted to do math.

Yet even a top-shelf product can only augment live teaching. Despite Dreambox’s overall good functionality, there are places where students can become frustrated — not because they don’t know how to do the underlying math, but because the directions for the online activity are confusing. Likewise, technology is bringing back in vogue the idea of the “flipped classroom” with the teacher acting as a “guide on the side” rather than the primary source of instruction. I say back in vogue because, ironically, talk of devaluing the teacher as content provider has been a fixture of progressive education thought for a century. Another variation of the flipped-classroom idea is to use technology to explain concepts at home and use classroom time differently. Again, a lot of potential, but only with keen attention to instructional quality. Much of the online content available today merely replicates the lame instruction already available in too many of our nation’s schools.

(MORE: Rotherham: ‘Let’s Not Weaken It’: An Exclusive Interview with George W. Bush on NCLB)

As a parent and an analyst, I want technology that includes rich content or enables students to access it. And I want technologies that are engaging for students but actually teach them something. Plenty of applications err on one side or the other. And as with lots of offline schoolwork, there are time wasters that aren’t helping anyone learn much of anything. If anyone tells you an ed tech tool has “gaming elements,” make sure it’s not just a game.

American education desperately needs an overhaul that goes far beyond upgrading computers in the classroom. It’s the last major American field relatively untouched by technology. But Jobs was right: technology by itself won’t fix what ails our schools. He saw teachers’ unions and archaic practices as the big barriers. Perhaps, but I’d argue they are symptoms of our larger inattention to instructional quality. The bells and whistles of technology, for all its promise, are distracting us from this mundane but essential reality.

Rotherham, a co-founder and partner at the nonprofit Bellwether Education, writes the blog Eduwonk. The views expressed are solely his own.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/26/can-computers-replace-teachers/?xid=newsletter-daily#ixzz1kwiyxUP2

Entrepreneurs Wanted in Ireland (and maybe also in Australia and the Philippines too)

I don’t know whether Australia and the Philippines has something similar to what Ireland is planning to do but its a logical idea if you want to create jobs in this period of reduced government resources.

From Startup Smart

Ireland the latest nation to cast net for foreign entrepreneurs

By Michelle Hammond
Friday, 27 January 2012

Ireland is the latest nation to appeal to foreign entrepreneurs to do business in the region, in a desperate bid to boost employment, following similar initiatives in the United States and Britain.

 

Two programs – the Immigrant Investor Program and the Start-up Entrepreneur Program – will be formally launched in March by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

 

The first program will require applicants to invest between 400,000 and two million euros, depending on the level and duration of financial commitment.

 

The second program aims to foster new enterprises, for which the applicant will have to have financial backing of no less than 70,000 euros.

 

Approved participants and their immediate family will be allowed to enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and remain there for two years. The visas will be renewable.

 

Applications for both programs will be considered by an evaluation committee, consisting of relevant state agencies and government departments.

 

“Their objective is to encourage entrepreneurs into Ireland; people with innovative schemes that will create jobs and have the possibility of expansion in the future,” Shatter told Irish radio program Morning Ireland.

 

“These are programs of a similar nature to programs that exist in a variety of other countries.”

 

Both the US and Britain have introduced programs designed to entice foreign entrepreneurs to relocate.

 

In March last year, US Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, along with Senator Mark Udall, reintroduced legislation designed to help immigrant entrepreneurs secure visas to the US.

 

The Startup Visa of 2011 would allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two-year visa if he or she can show that a qualified US investor is willing to invest in their start-up venture.

 

Meanwhile, the UK government has launched Go UK, a business plan competition designed to boost investment in the region, open to Australian firms with an interest in expansion to the UK.

 

Successful applicants receive return airfares to London, where they have access to potential business partners, client contacts, business networks and services.

 

Shatter is confident his country’s programs will be successful.

 

“We believe that it can attract people into Ireland – who would not otherwise invest here – to the benefit of our overall economy, with great potential for job creation,” Shatter said.

 

“The distinct difference between the two schemes is that one scheme – the entrepreneur start-up scheme – would allow an individual… to establish residence in Ireland, initially for two years.”

 

“They would ultimately be allowed to stay here for up to five years… and they’d be entitled to bring their family with them.”

 

According to Shatter, the Immigrant Investor Program presents a “broad range” of possibilities.

 

“For example, an individual who is willing to invest a minimum of two million euros in a low-interest immigrant investor bond,” he said.

 

“[They] would be allowed to reside in Ireland [but] the investment would have to be for a minimum of five years.”

 

“Alternatively, there’d be an opportunity to invest a minimum of one million euros of venture capital funding into an Irish business, either an existing business or… new businesses.”

 

Attention PH BPO companies: Australia needs you

Attention: Philippine BPO companies read this article and let me know how I can help you develop a market in the land of the down under.

From Smart Company

Put the soaring Aussie dollar to good use – five top outsourcing ideas

Monday, 30 January 2012
By Patrick Stafford

With the dollar now reaching $US1.06c, manufacturing businesses are continuing to fret over how much longer they can survive.

The sudden spike in the dollar after several weeks of subdued performance has put several businesses, already stretched thin, on high alert.

Even GUD managing director Ian Campbell, whose business is performing well despite the circumstances, this morning warned SMEs that labour costs are putting even more pressures on businesses.

“If you are manufacturing globally traded product in this country and your direct and indirect labour costs get to 10% of your manufactured cost, you will go broke.”

As Australian companies are finding ways to hedge against the dollar, they are spending more time looking how to outsource some of their tasks – even GUD imports most of its product now.

With the dollar not going down any time soon, here are five ways you can save more money for your business by outsourcing:

Data hosting

Data hosting is perhaps the most common form of outsourcing these days. Plenty of SMEs are now taking all of their data needs and putting it elsewhere, often overseas, with the ability to continually access that data as often as they want.

It’s always getting cheaper, and the risk of entrusting your data to a reputable provider is low. If you can get your head around the legal requirements, then moving data offshore can save you a pile of cash.

Manufacturing

Admittedly this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to set up, but having certain products manufactured offshore can be incredibly helpful. And with the dollar gaining even more ground there’s never been a better time.

China is a good place to start, but there are plenty of manufacturers throughout south-east Asia that you may be able to deal with. It’s worked for companies like Kogan and other SMEs – there’s no reason it can’t for others.

As GUD head Ian Campbell said this morning, the business imports most of its product from China, having spent a considerable amount of time and money into finding the best deals.

Customer service

Probably one of the most common forms of outsourcing, placing customer service departments overseas can be a big help. This can include all forms of service, including phone support along with online chat.

An entire industry has been built out of making customer support cheaper by offshoring, with businesses for hire in India, Britain and the United States. However, plenty of SMEs have run into trouble by failing to properly train their staff, so dedication is a must.

Printing

The internet has led to a number of printing and textiles companies opening their business to companies located in other countries. Although there are a variety of printing businesses available in Australia, looking at some international alternatives can save you a lot of money if the shipping times are good.

Design services

Australians have been at the forefront of the crowdsourcing trend, and the variety of businesses that offer crowdsourced design options is a testament to its success. SMEs have been able to save themselves thousands by using these sites, tapping into a talented database of designers to create logos, promotions and other marketing materials.

If you’re strapped for cash and need some design done, sites such as 99Designs and DesignCrowd are a great place to get started.

Future megatrends for AUS and PH business to consider

These megatrends are similarly applicable to Philippine business. And it looks the same challenges are also applicable for Philippine business too.

From SmartCompany

Eight megatrends for the decade ahead: How are Australian businesses placed?

Monday, 30 January 2012 09:24
By Madeleine Heffernan

Australia is well-placed to capitalise on the growing affluence of new markets in Asia, but many companies feel daunted about rapid technological changes and social media, according to a new survey.

The survey, Service 2020: Megatrends for the decade ahead, is written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and based on the forecasts of 479 business-leaders across the world, including about 50 from Australia. The businesses range from large to small, with a spread across regions and sectors.

BDO Australia National Chairman Tony Schiffmann says many respondents were downbeat about their company’s ability to capitalise on the eight mega-trends tipped for the next decade.

“The feedback is there are a lot of mountains to climb,”Schiffman told SmartCompany this morning.

The eight megatrends were:

  • Global competition will drive up service standards.
  • Companies must maintain service standards in the face of “the need for speed”.
  • Firms must learn to use the increased transparency brought by social media to their advantage.
  • Companies must use new sources and types of data to rethink the way they track and personalise their service.
  • Good employees will remain fundamental to good service but with technology as an enabler.
  • More firms will outsource aspects of customer service to new kinds of specialists.
  • The rise of the mass affluent and other customer segments will force companies to find new product or service niches.
  • Customer expectations, including the purpose of the store, are evolving with new technology.

Schiffman says business leaders are concerned about the pace of technological change and how to cope with social media.

“Smartphones and iPads, the development in that space is fundamentally changing things,” he says.

“So it’s being unable to know what’s ahead in technology, as well as the need for speed from customers who won’t be patient for organisations to embrace those changes and who will also want high levels of service.”

Schiffman says although it’s a given that business will need to pour more money into information technology – “we’re on the merry-go-round and we’ve got to continue to invest” – he stresses that these IT investments don’t necessarily need to cost an arm and leg.

“I’m not sure in this day and age that means having to spend huge sums of money,” he says.

“A lot of technology now is relatively cheap, so you can probably implement changes in a fairly reasonable way.”

Respondents were also cautious about social media, another megatrend of the next decade.

Says Schiffman: “The clear trend to come out of this is that organisations understand it’s here to stay and they need to harness it.”

He says social media is yet another source of data for business to collect, and should be aligned to its customer service processes to get a better reflection of what people are saying about their product or service.

Schiffman says Australian standards are already world-class.

“Australian markets are really at the forefront of what’s happening globally. Obviously in the US, China and Europe they’ve got huge markets and elements of scale. But our business processes and strategies processes are second to none.”

And an Economy for all

In this challenging economic times with governments everywhere focusing on getting their finances in order, its important for the common man voter to remind them that this should not be at the expense of the more of the disadvantaged members of the community.

 

Economic fixes must offer a fair go for all

From the Sydney Morning Herald
25 January 2012
By Ross Grittins

Divide has deepened since crises

Changes in technology and the increased value placed on highly skilled jobs has served to enlarge the gap between rich and poor.

When you listen to street interviews with people in the troubled countries of the euro zone, a common complaint emerges: whereas some people waxed fat in the boom that preceded the crisis, it’s ordinary workers who suffer most in the bust, and they and even poorer people who bear the brunt of government austerity campaigns intended to fix the problem.

In other words, achieving a well-functioning economy is one thing; achieving an economy that also treats people fairly is another. Economists and business people tend to focus mainly on economic efficiency; the public tends to focus on the fairness of it all.

Fail to fix the economy and almost everyone suffers. But offend people’s perceptions of fairness and you’re left with a dissatisfied, confused electorate that could react unpredictably.

Advertisement: Story continues below
<em>Illustration: Kerrie Leishman</em>Illustration: Kerrie Leishman

The trick for governments is to try to achieve a reasonable combination of both economic efficiency and fairness. Fortunately, but a bit surprisingly, the need for this dual approach has penetrated the consciousness of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – the rich nations’ club which is expanding its membership to include the soon-to-be-rich countries.

New research from the organisation deals with ways governments can get their budgets back under control without simply penalising the vulnerable and ways they can improve the economy’s functioning and increase fairness at the same time.

Much of the concern about fairness in the hard-hit countries of the North Atlantic has focused on bankers. In the boom these people made themselves obscenely rich by their reckless, greedy behaviour, eventually bringing the economy down and causing many people to lose their businesses and millions to lose their jobs.

But their banks were bailed out at taxpayers’ expense – adding to the huge levels of government debt the financial markets now find so unacceptable – and few bankers seem to have been punished. Some have even gone back to paying themselves huge bonuses.

It’s a mistake, however, to focus discontent on the treatment of a relative handful of bankers. The fairness problem goes much wider. In most developed countries, the long boom of the preceding two decades saw an ever-widening gap between rich and poor.

In the United States, almost all the growth in real income over the period has been captured by the richest 10 per cent of households (much of it going to the top 1 per cent), so that most Americans’ real income hasn’t increased in decades.

It hasn’t been nearly as bad in Australia. Low and middle household incomes have almost always risen in real terms, even though high incomes have grown a lot faster.

Looking globally, a lot of the widening in incomes has come from the effects of globalisation and, more particularly, technological change, which has increased the wages of the highly skilled relative to the less skilled. But a lot of the widening is explained by government policy changes, such as more generous tax cuts for the well-off.

The euro zone countries need not only to get on top of their budgets and government debt, but also to get their economies growing more vigorously. So the organisation has proposed structural reforms – we’d say microeconomic reforms – which can foster economic growth and fairness at the same time.

One area offering a ”double dividend” is education. Policies that increase graduation rates from secondary and tertiary education hasten economic growth by adding to the workforce’s accumulation of human capital while also increasing the lifetime income of young people who would otherwise do much less well.

Promoting equal access to education helps reduce inequality, as do policies that foster the integration of immigrants and fight all forms of discrimination. Making female participation in the workforce easier should also bring a double dividend.

Surprisingly – and of relevance to our debate about Julia Gillard‘s Fair Work Act – the organisation acknowledges the role of minimum wage rates, laws that strengthen trade unions, and unfair dismissal provisions in ensuring a more equal distribution of wage income.

It warns, however, that if minimum wages are set too high they may reduce employment, which counters their effect in reducing inequality. And reforms to job protection that reduce the gap between permanent and temporary workers can reduce wage dispersion and possibly also lead to higher employment.

Systems of taxation and payments of government benefits play a key role in lowering the inequality of household incomes. Across the membership of the organisation, three-quarters of the average reduction in inequality achieved by the tax and payments system come from payments. Means-tested benefits are more redistributive than universal benefits.

Reductions in the rates of income tax to encourage work, saving and investment need not diminish the inequality-reducing effect of income tax, provided their cost is covered by the elimination of tax concessions that benefit mainly high income earners – such as those for investment in housing or the reduction in the tax on capital gains. Getting rid of these would also reduce tax avoidance opportunities for top income earners.

So it’s not inevitable that the best-off benefit most during booms and the worst-off suffer most in the clean-up operations after the boom busts. It’s a matter of the policies governments choose to implement in either phase of the cycle.

You, however, may think it’s inevitable that governments choose policies that benefit the rich and powerful in both phases.

But we’re talking about the government of democracies, where the votes of the rich are vastly outnumbered by the votes of the non-rich. So if governments pursue policies that persistently disadvantage the rest of us, it must be because we aren’t paying enough attention – aren’t doing enough homework – and are too easily gulled by the vested interests’ slick TV advertising campaigns.

Ross Gittins is the Sydney Morning Herald’s economics editor.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/economic-fixes-must-offer-a-fair-go-for-all-20120124-1qfio.html#ixzz1ki5c3kEq

Telecommuting: 1 in 5 do it

Telecommuting  is an old work approach whose potentials have yet to be popular but may one option for stress driven jobs. The jury is still out on whether the cost benefit of doing this really is on the plus side.

About one in five workers worldwide telecommute: poll

Photo
From Reuters
Tuesday 24 January  2012

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) – About one in five workers around the globe, particularly employees in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day, according to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll.

Telecommuting is particularly popular in India where more than half of workers were most likely to be toiling from home, followed by 34 percent in Indonesia, 30 percent in Mexico and slightly less in Argentina, South Africa and Turkey.

But the job option is the least popular in Hungary, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Canada, where less than 10 percent of people work from home.

“It is really a story about the emerging markets and I am not sure if that is because the West is about to pick up the trend. They are definitely still skeptical,” said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Global Public Affairs, which conducted the survey.

“But they see a lot of advantages. Europe and North America agree that telecommuting is a great way to retain women. It provides less stress because of less commuting and provides a better work-life balance,” she added in an interview.

PRODUCTIVITY, ISOLATION, CHANCES OF PROMOTION

Telecommuting refers to employees who work remotely from their office, communicating by email, phone or online chats, either daily or occasionally.

Advances in technology and communications have enabled people to work effectively and efficiently without being constantly at their desks in the company office.

It is a trend that has grown and one which looks like it will continue with 34 percent of connected workers saying they would be very likely to telecommute on a full-time basis if they could.

More than half of people in Russia, South Africa and Argentina said they would work remotely often if given the opportunity, while employees in Japan, Sweden, Great Britain, Australia and Canada were the least enthusiastic about telecommuting.

Twenty one percent of connected people globally said it wasn’t a possibility for them because their job requires them to be in the workplace all the time.

Most people, 65 percent, around the globe thought telecommuters were productive because the flexibility enabled them to have more control over their work life.

“If gives you the opportunity to work when you are most productive,” Gottfried explained. “You are working when you know

you are best able to get the work done.”

Despite the obvious benefits of telecommuting, 62 percent of people said they found it socially isolating and half thought that the daily lack of face-to-face contact could harm their chances of a promotion.

And 53 percent believe working from home can increase family conflict because of the blurred boundaries between work and private time.

Concerns about the impact on family were strong in India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Residents in Saudi Arabia and Turkey were also most likely to worry about the impact working from home would have on chances for promotion.

Ipsos questioned 11,383 people in online poll in 24 countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Paul Casciato)

Where the real benefits of Apple come from

We are appear to be enjoying the benefits of Steve Jobs‘ lastest invention of the Iphone. Life appears never to have been better. And Apple believes to have the same attitude as well having over US$100 billion in cash based on latest financial reports. What we don’t know is the huge human costs involved to produce their products. The little we know of it does not sound beneficial. Begs the questions whether we should be enjoying the benefits of their products if we had a choice.

Report: Apple Still Ignoring Labor Abuses in Favor of Profits

January 26, 2012

A day after Apple recorded its best quarter ever, a report from The New York Times has questioned – again – whether Apple’s products are manufactured under safe and humane conditions.

The report notes that the questions surrounding Apple’s manufacturing practices are not exclusive to the company, noting that Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and others all used Taiwan or Chinese original design manufacturers, or ODMS, to manufacture their products under the OEM‘s brand. But Apple’s culture of secrecy, the report says, makes it difficult to truly know under what conditions its products are made.

Apple declined to comment to the Times.

The report is the second report by the Times on the so-called “iEconomy” of Taiwan, with a focus on the relationship between Apple and one of its largest suppliers, Foxconn. A previous report looked at Foxconn specifically, just days after the company’s chief executiveapologized for comments that were interpreted to mean that he compared his workers to animals. A rash of suicides plagued Foxconn in 2010, but suicide threats have persisted until this year.

The story uses Lai Xiaodong, a Foxconn employee, as the anchor, noting that his death in May 2011 had been caused by the improper ventilation of aluminum dust, a problem, one observer noted, that had been solved a century ago.

“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners, as quoted by the Times.

The problem, as the Times reports again and again, is that Apple’s goal of reducing or eliminating inhumane working conditions bumps up against Apple’s profit motive. Apple’s public audits of its suppliers, a practice that it largely pioneered, continue to turn up labor violations.

“If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company’s ignoring the issue rather than solving it,” one Apple supplier told the paper. “Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear.”

 

Reality checklist for Start-ups

I consider myself an idea developer and often times I get carried away from the great ideas I have seen thinking the next phase of making money out of it is a walk in the park. Here is some tips on having a reality check whether that start-up to do it is better off to be a start-down.

Beware of start-up hockey stick expectations

From StartUp Smart

By Marc Peskett
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I meet with a lot of innovators from all walks of life.

 

The thing that strikes me the most about them is that they typically have one thing in common – they all think that their idea will be a great commercial success.

 

They believe their customers will love their product, pay good money to get it and their business will take off in a hockey stick trajectory.

 

Based on these beliefs and assumptions, the innovator sets up a company. They then develop a glossy business plan and proceed to spend a lot of their own money, as well as funds obtained from investors, in order to commercialise their innovation.

 

After spending a heap of start-up capital, they launch their product and eagerly await the moment when the cash will roll in.

 

What happens next is that a few early adopters pick up the product and start to use it.

 

But the early adopters are only a small percentage of the total market. Overall demand remains low and customer take-up is only a fraction of what the innovator originally assumed.

 

The price early adopters are willing to pay is also a lot less than originally assumed, too.

 

In fact, no one really wants the product and it turns out the grand market opportunity just isn’t there.

 

The business now has valuable information about the market and the real opportunities, but by this stage, there’s no money left to invest in reconfiguring the product into something that customers really want.

 

I know the picture I’ve just painted isn’t the sorry tale of every innovation idea, but it’s an all too common story I’ve heard time and again from start-up entrepreneurs.

 

To avoid treading the same path of many failed innovators before you, you must use a discovery based planning process to identify the right product and market fit, before betting all your funds on a single strategy.

 

There are three key steps to discovery based planning:

 

1. Identify your assumptions

 

The first step in a discovery planning process is to identify the “leap of faith” assumptions that you’re making. (This is a phrase coined by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, recommended reading for all start-ups).

 

These “leap of faith” assumptions are generally about market size, market share, customer needs, pricing and how fast your business will grow.

 

Writing these assumptions down will help you focus and clarify your thinking about them.

 

If you’re struggling to identify your assumptions, reflect on your financial projections and the assumptions you needed to make in order to set those projections.

 

2. Test your assumptions

 

Once you have identified your assumptions, develop a plan to test and validate each of them. Build a scale model or prototype and invite potential customers to try it.

 

Gather their feedback on the usefulness of the product and what they perceive its value to be.

 

Find out who your economic buyers are. These are the people that will actually spend money to buy what you’re selling.

 

There’s a big difference between users who will try something for free and buyers actually willing to pay for the privilege.

 

Talk to the economic buyers and get a feel for their pricing expectations and limits. The discovery process is not just about identifying product features that customers want.

 

It’s also about identifying who the real customers are and how to capture them, the value proposition, the best way to market the product and where the growth opportunities are.

 

3. Use the feedback

 

Use the feedback and information gathered to assess whether the leap of faith assumptions you have made are still valid. Most times they won’t be.

 

By knowing which assumptions are incorrect, you can adjust your expectations and strategy before your funding runs out.

 

It could take several iterations of the test and validation process before you can confidently proceed further.

 

But when you do, you’ll be surer of the outcome and can enjoy a better return on investment as a result.

 

The information you gather from this discovery based process will be essential if you want to develop a successful, scalable and profitable business model.

 

Be warned though, the process may also tell you that you don’t have a viable business model. Prepare yourself for this potential outcome and consider it a blessing in disguise.

 

It’s better to fail fast, adjust and adapt, than to exhaust all your resources proceeding down a fruitless development path.

 

Marc Peskett is a director of MPR Group a Melbourne based business that provides finance lending, grants advisory and capital raising services as well as business advisory, tax, outsourced accounting, and wealth management to fast growing small to medium enterprises.  MPR Group is a member of the Proactive Accountants Network.

 

Apple’s IOS vs Google’s Android

The battle for which apps has emerged among developers. And not only between IOS vs Android but also now from Blackberry’s OS and MS Windows. Now if a developer can do one that runs on all four.

App developers prefer Android over Apple: Survey

From Startup Smart

By Michelle Hammond
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A new survey reveals Google’s Android operating system has replaced Apple’s iOS in terms of its importance to developers in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

The survey, conducted by technology analyst firm Ovum, was aimed at finding out how changes in the device market have altered app developers’ preferences when selecting platforms to use.

 

Ovum interviewed more than 100 developers globally, asking them which platform they preferred, comparing the answers to last year’s survey.

 

Both the Android and Apple’s iOS still form the core of developer support, the survey said, but there is increasing interest from developers in Blackberry OS and Microsoft’s Windows phone.

 

Adam Leach, head of devices and platforms at Ovum, says a smartphone platform’s success is dictated not only by consumers but a “healthy economy” of applications delivered by developers.

 

“Therefore, it is important for all players in the smartphone ecosystem to understand the choices developers are making today, and the downstream impact of those choices,” Leach says.

 

An earlier report by Ovum reveals the Asia-Pacific smartphone market will double its size by 2016 to hit shipments of 200 million.

 

According to Ovum, Android will drive the growth and will emerge as the dominant platform, dramatically outperforming Apple with a massive 20% lead on market share.

 

“We will see dramatic shifts in dominance for smartphone software platforms, with Android storming into the lead,” Leach said in the report.

 

One Australian developer who launched on the Android platform first is Native Tongue, which makes apps to teach people new languages via video games.

 

“The Android version was launched in early November and the iPhone version was launched last week,” Native Tongue developer Matthew Ho says.

 

“We launched an MVP first on Android, iterated, released new product features, tested, analysed the states and learnt a lot from that experience.”

 

“There’s a lot of benefits for launching first on Android because of the easier approval process and ability to test immediately.”

 

According to Ovum, the trends in this year’s survey mirror changes in the wider smartphone market.

 

Developers have been quick to respond to the exit of once-important smartphone platforms such as Windows Mobile, Symbian and WebOS, and have embraced the potential of newer platforms.

 

The research also shows a move away from traditional cross-platform mobile application approaches such as Java, Flash and WAP.

 

Instead, developers are focusing their efforts on web-based standards, such as HTML5, which appear to be the preferred approach to building cross-platform applications.

 

But despite the increasing use of cross-platform approaches, most developers are still using vendor-specific distribution channels, such as Android Market, to deploy applications.

 

Ovum explains that this is seen as the best way for developers to reach the largest possible audience for their applications.

%d bloggers like this: