Porter, Ohno, Jobs and the Value Chain of Content.

My career can best be described as a U turn. I started literally behind the drawing board as a mechanical engineer. Thru designing and building factories, I wound up in operating them. Thru these logistics I landed at a software company building ERP and ultimately at SDL. The biggest lessons I learned across my career is to focus on value for your customer. There are quite some similarities between producing a car and producing software.

Porter vs Ohno

Anybody learning the ropes of manufacturing will stumble over two manufacturing greats. Michael Porter and Taiichi Ohno. Both were instrumental in explaining the value chain. The latter is well known for pull based manufacturing pioneered by Toyota. In the '70's, car manufacturers in Europe and US were faced with  huge numbers of unsold stock driven by the 1973 oil crisis. All of a sudden there was abundance of cars. The Toyoto Manufacturing System was based on pull based manufacturing so, no stock was ever made for which there was no order. If they produced they knew it was for a customer. This way of producing increased quality, reduced costs hence price and allowed for much quicker model changes. Nowadays pretty much all manufacturing sites have moved - wherever possible - to this type of "stockless production" not just car manufacturers. 

Enter Steve Jobs

So, growing up with the paradigm, that "thou shall not produce without demand" always led me to struggle with Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs designed and produced stuff that "people didn't know they needed". Until one of our product managers told her audience on stage that she wanted "the stuff she needed" and "the stuff that is relevant to her". Immediately my lightbulb went on and I realized (I'm sure others have preceded me) we at SDL need to deliver what a person needs and in that process find out what is relevant to him/her.

The Value Chain of Content

Let's go back to Porter and Ohno for a second and project that to us. Every time any of us spend time or make a keystroke we must remember that a customer has paid for this. Logically our customer is most entitled to benefit from this hence should have access to it. For us, this means that sharing content with our customers directly or via partners will become the norm. That is a huge paradigm shift alike the car manufacturers had to go thru in the 70's. In fact, most content these days in offices around the world is produced, put in a warehouse (drive) that a customer can never access hence never will turn it into value. This will require for SDL to turn around the way content is produced from sender dominance to receiver/customer dominance. If we were to be as radical as Toyota, we would only produce content for which there is demand. This starts with having conversations and figuring out what the demand really is and make sure it is shared from the source.

During that process we can then build up the persona profiles and serve the relevant content that our customer didn't ask for but really is something that will add value and make their life easier in achieving their business goals. In a world of abundance we have to change the way we produce and deliver value to our customer.