23rd Mar 2015
Sometimes books beat articles, posts and tweets
Earlier this month I started reading business books again. My wife runs a start-up incubator and as a result we have loads of them at home. I must admit I’d become a bit disenchanted with them over the years. So, instead of pushing them into corners I picked one up and got stuck in. And I have to confess, I’m a fan again.
When I started in web design I read loads of popular books. Like Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, Jacob Nielson’s Designing Web Usability and Thomas Shelford’s Real Web Project Management. At the time they shed a lot of light on what were the emerging disciplines of usability, website planning and web project management. And they’re still good reads.
Then I made a switch - I started subscribing to newsletters, blogs and feeds and seemed to drift away from what you might call ‘proper books’. There are some good reads out there that I, for one, missed out on.
What follows is a quick summary of 3 useful books. I’ve picked these as being particularly relevant if you are moving some (or all) of your business operations online or planning a brand new venture online.
Business Model Generation
Business Model Generation is in some ways a practical ‘manual’ on how to use the Business Model Canvas for planning. It breaks the business model down into a series of key areas which can act as a common vocabulary for planning and ideation sessions. Its beauty is in its clear presentation, the obvious experience of its contributors and the wealth of practical case study material that is used to describe common and emerging business models. If you don’t know your freemium, long tail or multi-sided platform from your elbow then this is where to start.
There are 2 good reasons why you should read this book before you start planning a new website. Firstly, it will introduce terminology that will allow you to communicate effectively with a digital agency and co-create a meaningful brief for a project. Secondly, it provides a clear overview of User Personas - a practical planning technique that puts the user (or customer) firmly at the centre of your model. At Metadigital we’ve adopted Persona Modelling as key part of our approach to strategy & planning.
Start With Why
Start With Why introduces a simple yet powerful premise called the Golden Circle, and no it’s not like the Magic Circle. Some entrepreneurs and leaders have a tendency to start with How (i.e. the process or approach that gets the end product or service delivered). Worst case scenario they start with What (i.e. the actual product or service). Simon’s book is an easy to read insight into why you should start with Why (i.e. the real motivation for providing the product or service in the first place). He also introduces some useful techniques such as the celery test and the split test which are practical and easy to remember and apply to everyday business life.
Start With Why is a great litmus test to apply to eBusiness modelling or a web design & build project. It puts motivation square and centre in the agenda and forces you to avoid adopting a pack mentality that will kill your competitive advantage.
The Decision Book – Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking
Perhaps less exciting than Fifty Shades of Grey - The Decision Book is a really useful reference library of models for assessing a business idea. It contains 50 decision-making tools that you can use to assess and refine your own business model. They are all designed to be simple, pragmatic and visual. They help to sum things up, organise your thoughts and provide methods for modelling (rather than the answers). There are quite a few that you will recognise immediately such as the SWOT Analysis model and the Pareto Principle. There are even more that you won’t recognise but can be applied to business modelling scenarios. It’s a handy overview for cherry picking relevant models before researching in more detail from the list of references at the end.
This one is structured around people centric issues such as how to improve yourself, how to understand yourself and others better. Yet most of the models can be applied to your business – how to understand and improve your business. It encourages you to be objective and to use terminology that has meaning and context to those around you. One of the most important aspects of a successful digital project is to get a team of experts working together. Project managers, creatives, user experience specialists, and programmers can all working together to deliver something that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Hopefully this article provides some practical advice if you are thinking about a digital project that goes beyond brochure ware. Metadigital have a strong track record in helping our customer’s develop a digital strategy that moves beyond the obvious. If you think we might be able to help then don’t hesitate. Start a conversation.
By: Robin Balmforth
If you'd like an informal chat about how Metadigital can help with your digital project please get in touch.