Complexity is an interesting issue when it comes to Time and Efficient use of Time. I will go back into my work history to explain. When I worked at AFC, we had built a product that was optimized for use by the Small Telephone Companies often called the IOCs. The way that the product was organized and worked made their life better. The group that did not have that same view was the Large Telephone companies then called the RBOCs. I want to talk about complexity as we saw it and then as the RBOCs saw it.
From AFC’s standpoint, we wanted everybody to adopt the same models of the product. We didn’t want to have separate versions of the product for different customers. The challenge for us was that this was the way that the RBOCs wanted things. They approved specific versions and wanted only those versions shipped to them. From AFC’s standpoint, this meant that we had to hold inventory for those customers separately. On top of that, we had to test multiple versions and we had to apply bug fixes to different software for each group of customers.
This changed greatly when we won the FiOS business at Verizon. They bought two “models” of the product. These configurations were the only thing they bought and they bought them in great quantity. So we treated this as a completely separate product and didn’t worry about how things were getting different between the older product and the FiOS product. The difference here was scale. AFC (up until FiOS) was a $350M/year business. Of that, we did about 15% with the RBOCs. That meant the special versions of them were in relatively low quantity. But FiOS was a $600M/year business on its own. That meant that any special procedures and versions were in relatively high quantity. The Time to create and manage the difference were done over large numbers so were easy to justify.
The RBOCs had their own version of that problem and let me look at it in today’s view. They have a large amount of legacy equipment in the network that works to very old standards. The problem is that they can no longer buy replacements – even used replacements for some of that equipment it is so old. They also don’t want to approve new vendors for the legacy network. It is expensive to do so in both resources and Time. I was told once that approving a new product for them was a $30M project and took 2 years. If you want to retire the legacy gear, why would you spend the time and money to find new versions?
But think about this more broadly. These are huge organizations with 10s of thousands of employees. The cost to keep the legacy network going is great and at the same time, they have to build a new, more efficient network. People will need retraining. Spares will have to be kept. Processes will need updating. I often see small companies unhappy with the Large Telephone Companies speed in change. Can you imagine how complex it is to manage a network that can still interface with 100-year-old equipment and yet be the most modern in the world? It is this that is complex and adds cost to their business.
So, think about the models that you have. Especially those that are rarely used. Ask yourself, can I simplify my business and sell more of the more popular items? It might be a great way to make more time!
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