Teaching and the Tools Thereof

I’m teaching in a strategic management class, starting next Monday. It’s the capstone strategy class in the MBA program at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). I’ll be teaching a “hybrid” section, which mean that it’ll be mostly e-learning, but with a few in-class meetings.

The learning management system (LMS) is WebTycho, which is well-established at UMUC, used at a few other institutions, but isn’t a generally-available or widely-used LMS. Having just completed an orientation course in WebTycho, I can give an opinion: it’s solid, and not often annoying.

Teaching at UMUC also involves using Microsoft Outlook, which is both widely-used and annoying.

That said, I’m excited about the 10-week strategy course that’s about to start.

Acquia’s Strategy: Drupal as the Standard Platform

Acquia is a for-profit company, based on the free/open source content management system Drupal. When Acquia was founded, a little over three years ago, I remarked on its similarity to Automattic (which is based on WordPress).

Today, Acquia and Drupal founder Dries Buytaert posted about “the vision that we’ve been working towards for the last 3 years, and… how Acquia can help simplify your web strategy.” That’s based on the premise that “you” are (or are a member of) an organization with multiple websites. Since the sites differ in many ways (scale, rate of change, etc.), you find yourself with a variety of platforms.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a platform on which it was feasible to standardize? Acquia’s strategy is to provide that platform, in the form of Drupal and services to go with it.

That’s the big picture: Drupal as the Enterprise 2.0 platform (not a quote from Dries, but my summary of his post). One of the interesting parts of the picture is Drupal Gardens, which provides Drupal as a service. Dries contrasts Gardens with typical software as a service.

Almost all Software as a Service (SaaS) providers employ a proprietary model – they might allow you to export your data, but they usually don’t allow you to export the underlying code. Users of Drupal Gardens are able to export their Drupal Gardens site – the code, the theme and data…

We call this “Open SaaS” or Software as a Service done right based on Open Source principles.

I’ve been interested in the “open software as a service as a trap” issue for a while. So it’s good to see this issue addressed head on in an account of a vendor’s strategy.

Please feel free to leave comments on Acquia, its strategy, and related issues here. You don’t have to read Dries’ post first, but I recommend you do.

Andy Grove’s Book Survives

A dozen years ago, Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive came out. I had cause to pick it up again today.

You can find (most of) the preface online at Intel. Here’s the key definition: “a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change.”

In order to describe the fundamentals of a business, Andy extended Michael Porter’s Five Forces of Competition model into a Six Forces model. The force he added was that of complements. For example, Microsoft Windows was an important complement to Intel’s chips, and remains so today.

OtPS is a Six Forces account of Intel and its environment. That said, it is a dozen years old, and that’s a long time in a tech industry. The risk of obsolescence is particularly acute when we realize that the last chapter is “The Internet: Signal or Noise? Threat or Promise?”, opens with the then-recent story of Netscape’s IPO, and goes on to explain what the internet is. But the chapter stands the test of time remarkably well.

So does the book as a whole. I expect to be able to rate OtPS as highly in another dozen years, for the clarity of the six forces framework and Andy’s exposition.

Cluetrain Pulls in to Strategy Station

By Strategy Station I mean the 2007 meeting of the Strategic Management Society. This post is a companion to the handout I uploaded to the conference web site. If you got here via that handout, welcome! If you’re a more regular blog reader , you’re also welcome, and the last paragraph of this post is especially for you.

The paper is “Corporate blogging: Is it a nonmarket strategy?” It provides arguments both for and against the question in its title. Here’s a simplified version of the no argument that convinces me.

To save you some typing, here are the other links from the handout:

For most readers who arrived here through the usual blog-related channels, see the appropriate page from the conference web site for the one-page handout, and for some context. It does define the term nonmarket strategy. To such readers, the paper, even in handout form, may seem rather laborious. I agree that it has the Cluetrain pulling some rather bulky cars behind it. But laborious writing often seems like a hazard of the academic occupation.