I hear people tell me “it’s complicated” all the time. Mainly when they are trying to blow me off and not have me pry into the problem. However, I like taking complicated ideas and finding easy ways to communicate them by breaking a complicated problem into a number of simple problems. E.F. Schumacher said
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
However, sometimes situations are just complex in every way. Recently, I spoke to a group of CIOs in the high tech industry and previous to that meeting I believed I knew what a complex business model looked like. Something like this whiteboard example on the left (B2B2B or B2B2C). I thought a complex business model was selling to one customer then selling to an end customer.
However, during that meeting I was educated on what a true complex business model looks like – and many of those that are in high tech. The diagram does not do justice to the complexity so let me explain it. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t like rockets science complex – but complex relationships sometimes can be harder to deal with then science.
- I build components that go into a cell phone. I first have to sell the idea of using those components to the network providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.).
- The provider dictates to the phone manufacturer to use your components
- You sell components to the phone manufacturer
- All 3 of you market your components, phones, and services to the end consumer who is actually purchasing the phones
But here’s the crux – many B2B companies like this have very few real customers despite this complexity, and thus say “E-Commerce really doesn’t have a place for us”….
…until you go to new emerging markets like China, India and South America. All of a sudden this model is 3-dimensional, flipped on its’ side, and looks like something out of Minority Report. You have hundreds of providers, hundred of manufacturers, and thousands if not millions of combinations of those 2. So, as we explored this new complexity it became very clear that E-Commerce was essential to supporting these complex relationships in emerging markets abroad.
- B2B E-Commerce is different because of the inherited complexity in our relationships
- No matter how simple or how complex, E-Commerce can be an enabler especially in new markets
- It’s okay for E-Commerce to make sense for one area of the business, but not make sense for others
P.S. I find that while I pride myself in simplifying complicated things, it takes me about 5 iterations to get there. When I prepare for speaking, I have to start weeks ahead because I know it’s going to take me 5 full rewrites before I actually sound credible. But, this blog is more stream of consciousness – my thought(s) of the day. Therefore, I very well may make simple or complicated problems MORE COMPLICATED on this blog. For that I apologize and accept your criticism.