Saturday, August 23, 2014

Projects, Products, Open Source and Proprietary

A couple of points to note on terms. I'll use figure 1 and 2 to describe the process of change. For those completely unfamiliar with mapping then I'd suggest watching the video and reading through the slides provided in the early post on 'Playing Chess with Companies'.

Figure 1 - A 'Wardley' Map

Figure 2 - Evolution

From figure 1 : the overall map might be referred to as a system, line of business, programme, environment or even a project. It depends upon what you're looking at. Any complex environment however can be broken into multiple components sub components describing activities, practices or data. This is what figure 1 shows you - a complex environment consisting of multiple components.

Point A - Evolution (the x-axis)
The x-axis of a map describes evolution and you can read more about how this was created in this earlier post. The actual pattern I first used in 2004 at EuroFoo but it took until 2006/2007 to collect enough data to confirm it. Figure 2 shows how the pattern and the different domains on that x-axis are related. The terms here are very specific. I've used the same letters on both figure 1 & 2 to show the links.

Point B - Genesis : if you look at figure 1 you'll note point B - the creation of a new and novel act. Please note, this does not mean the first time that YOU have created the act but the first time that THE act itself has been created. If you examine figure 2, you will note that Genesis (also noted as point B) has low ubiquity and certainty. What this means is the act is rare, poorly understood and hence likely to change. Other terms used to describe Genesis are innovation, original, origin, unique etc.

Point C - Custom built :  refers to the re-implementation or copying of the act by others. From figure 2, the act is still fairly rare (i.e. low ubiquity) and poorly defined (i.e. low certainty) but it is more common and better defined than genesis. Such acts are also often described as bespoke, projects, own build etc.

Point D - Product :  the act has now become common and well defined enough (see figure 2) that products can be introduced. This is a world of feature differentiation, competition between vendors, development of brand etc. During this time we often see rental services appear (see figure 2).

Point E - Commodity :  the act has now become common and well defined enough (see figure 2) that feature differentiation no longer matters. The act is widespread, well defined and suitable for volume operation provision of good enough components. During this time we often see utility services appear (see figure 2) such services often being described as platforms.

Ok, so that's the basics of evolution. Now a couple of additional points are needed.

Point F - Uncharted to Industrialised : the map in figure 1 is not a static diagram as every component is evolving (from left to right) due to competition (supply an demand). As the acts evolve their characteristics change. Hence :-
  • Uncharted space (genesis) - acts are novel, rare, poorly understood, constantly changing, require experimentation, future sources of worth, points of differentiation, unmeasurable etc.
  • Industrialised space (commodity) - acts are common, well understood, stable, predictable, cost of doing business, volume operations, measurable, undifferentiated etc.
Everything on the map is evolving between those two states as long as competition exists.

Point G - Methods : because components are evolving between polar opposite characteristics (uncharted to industrialised) then the methods you require are also different i.e. Genesis requires agile techniques wheres commodity requires approaches like six sigma. Since any complex system will have multiple components at different stages of evolution then any environment is unlikely to be suitable for a single size method and instead you need to use both whether agile + six sigma or push + pull or networked + hierarchical or Hayek + Keynes.

Point H - Manipulation : points on the map can be manipulated by either accelerating or de-accelerating evolution. This is done by changing competition, for example open approaches will tend to accelerate. Patents, FUD and constraints can be used to de-accelerate.

Now, on the question of open vs proprietary then there is little evidence to suggest that either approach is better for the genesis of a novel act (I undertook a research report on this question back in 2011). However, there's plenty of evidence to show that an open approach will quickly drive an act to a more evolved state and that an open approach creates natural advantages (due to switching, interop etc) in the more evolved states (i.e. the more industrialised). 

It should also be noted that evolution equally applies to activities, practices, data and knowledge. When it comes to basic core research (the creation of novel concepts etc) it is worth noting that the majority of this is government funded (see national science foundation study) as opposed to applied research (used in developing products etc). However, the most significant changes in our society don't actually come from the genesis of an act (i.e. the first source of electricity provision - the Parthian Battery in 400AD) but instead from industrialisation of an act (Westinghouse and Tesla, utility provision of A/C electricity).  Hence, if a Government wanted to accelerate the rate of change in society and overall progression towards a more technically advanced society then the logical thing would be to open source / open commons all core research in order to drive it to a more industrialised state.

On the origins of this work, the map - commonly known as a 'Wardley' map or value chain mapping (though the latter term can be confused with Kaplan's value chain maps which are something entirely different) - and the evolution axis are entirely original pieces of work dating from 2004-2007. They are provided creative commons share alike purely for the reason of encouraging industrialisation of the process and improving situational awareness between companies. I have my reasons for having open sourced this method - part of which was contribution back to the community and the other part was around encouraging progress.