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Getting Your Killer Timing Right

It was a great line, although I don't think it ever really happened. However, there is a point to this story, which is that timing in business is everything. The fate of those CVs simply depended on when they were sent.

Back in 2000 I had managed to wangle an interview with the editor of PC Magazine in the US. I can't even begin to tell you how difficult that had been. PC Magazine had a circulation of around 1.2 million and was the most significant IT publication in the world.

I was promoting some desktop E-Commerce software, but the editor wasn't really interested. He insisted that everything was going to move to an ASP model, which stood for ‘application service provision’. You don’t hear this term much today, but you do hear its more modern equivalent, ‘cloud computing’.

The ASP revolution of 2000 came to nothing, leaving lots of investors with empty pockets. In contrast, today cloud computing is growing rapidly and there is undoubtedly a revolution underway. What’s the difference? The answer is timing. Timing is everything. Cloud computing is a killer today, but was a dud in 2000.

The point is that sometimes doing the right thing at the wrong time is worse than poor things done at the right time. Investment in the stock market proves the point. Buying Microsoft in1996 turns out to be better than buying Amazon in late 1999, despite the fact that Amazon shares have gone up almost ten-fold since 2002, and Microsoft has gone nowhere.

So how can you decide on your timing? “Buy low and sell high” applies to the purchase of any asset. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to say but hard to practise.

When it comes to technology, things are easier. There are two drivers to adoption of a new device or service, assuming you have established that it has real benefit.

  • These are whether it is dependent on an enabling technology and if so whether that enabling technology has rolled out widely enough.
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  • Secondly whether the price has reached a point where it is both affordable and worth the benefits that accrue to users
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When these two are satisfied, it’s game on.

In the case of cloud computing, the main platform driver is broadband adoption. It requires users to have reliable, fast and cheap connections, and these have only become widely available in recent years. At the same time deploying servers in the cloud is hugely easier and cheaper nowadays than back in 2000.

In business, timing is critical, particularly when judging new initiatives. Carefully looking at adoption curves rather than what the press are saying is a great way to establish real trends. Despite this, if you are fortunate enough to back a winner at the right time, remember, it was probably luck. Otherwise you may find yourself really unlucky next time around.

Writtn by Chris Barling. Originally published at Business Zone.

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