09 Nov The Whole Problem

the whole problemIt is interesting to observe how the world has quickly gone from one kind of company, called Asset Builders – those that actually handle physical products, to a group consisting of four types, in which Asset Builders play a partial, and seemingly diminishing role.

These four types are expertly summarized by Yin Lin, a colleague from my altMBA group:

  1. Asset Builders: These companies build, develop, and lease physical assets to make, market, distribute, and sell physical things. Examples include Ford, Wal-Mart, and FedEx…. [and Qualifirst Foods]
  2. Service Providers: These companies hire employees who provide services to customers or produce billable hours for which they charge. Examples include United Healthcare, Accenture, and JP Morgan.
  3. Technology Creators: These companies develop and sell intellectual property such as software, analytics, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology. Examples include Microsoft, Oracle, and Amgen.
  4. Network Orchestrators: These companies create a network of peers in which the participants interact and share in the value creation. They may sell products or services, build relationships, share advice, give reviews, collaborate, co-create and more. Examples include eBay, Red Hat, Visa, Uber, TripAdvisor, and Alibaba. “

And it’s the Network Orchestrators such as Uber and AirBnB that everyone is talking about.

And why is that?

Because they are the ones that create whole products.

A whole product is a solution that solves a complete problem, and that gives customers a reason and a desire to buy. A great example of this in the physical world is the suite of products from Apple, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod. When you compare these to competing products such as the Zune from Microsoft, or the Playbook from Blackberry, it is easy to see how the Apple products offer a complete experience that addresses needs far beyond simply playing music. In addition, the functionality of the Apple devices is simple, using gestures and gravity to replace traditional menu-based commands.

Although many other portable devices have since raced to catch up, it took the vision of Steve Jobs to approach the creation of a whole product from the “other” side. Rather than inventing a product and then marketing a reason to buy, he took the reason to buy and created his products around it. Or to use his words, “create the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”

The Apple whole products essentially paved the way for the ultimate modern iteration in which the whole product becomes virtual. eBay, for example, does not own anything that it sells. Uber owns no cars, and AirBnB owns no property. Yet as network orchestrators, they dominate their respective industries by providing complete services that people actually want.

I am turning to my team at Qualifirst to identify how we, too, can become more of a Network Orchestrator, delivering a whole product to our existing customer channels, and perhaps discovering some new channels along the way. To be continued…