People before business. Business before technology. Technology making people’s lives better.

There is a critical difference between focusing on opportunities and being distracted. Good opportunities can cause us to lose focus on our market mix and our core customers. There is a time to pivot, and there is a time to avoid pivoting. So this leads us to the question, when is state of the art a distraction?

The Early Adoption Question

The easy answer is version one of a product. The easier answer is the pre-version of a product. This does not say we should not take note, and it says we need to know the right season to pivot and the right season to integrate new concepts.

We are not saying early adopters are always wrong. We are saying the answer about early adoption should be a business decision and not a race to jump on board the new shiny tech.

ChatGPT is one such tech. It is unproven but has some interesting advances. One of the rules we have as architects is everything has tradeoffs. If you don’t know the tradeoffs, you haven’t used it long enough. This is the case with ChatGPT; we have not used it long enough to understand the tradeoffs yet.

This is not just about ChatGPT, but in some cases, it could be about older technology. Putting your business on social media helps many businesses. It takes time and other resources to maintain a viable presence on social media. These resources pull from other areas of business. If the ROI is there and sustainable, it is great. If not, it is a distraction.

Answering the question

At the end of the day, the question will be answered in business by our customers. The 80/20 rule needs to be considered here. While everybody matters, a business needs cash, just like a vehicle needs energy, gas, or electricity to move forward. If we move away from what brings in cash to our business, we will also move away from having a business to serve any of those customers.

It is also true that making more money or having a bigger business doesn’t make us a better business. Market position and profit can be as big a distraction as technology. We don’t want to leave opportunity on the table, and we don’t want an opportunity to change how our business wins for our customers.

There is a sweet spot where these two concepts co-exist. Great businesses learn and stay aware of where the sweet spot is. That area is a mutual benefit. Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, in the book Startup Owners Manual, cited in what they call the Startup Manifesto there are no facts inside the building, so get outside.

Getting Outside

Remember the social media we said was a shiny technology above? In the past, there was a race to the top, with Facebook running against the established leader, MySpace. You would think both companies were outside the building businesses, but one of the companies had a vision they were verifying, and the other company had a vision they were selling. We know how that competition ended.

When we get outside, it also gives us a different picture of who we are. This concept has become known as the business model canvas. The company was mostly established by a company called Strategyzer. Here is a picture of the business canvas.

The act of getting outside gives us a better picture of what it is about us that makes our business work. To know our customers is to know our business. Until we know our customers, we cannot properly understand that relationship.

Understanding the Journey

True business, meaning business that hits the target, is about understanding our relationship with our customers. One of the benefits of the business model canvas is how it shows many businesses have different key relationships. Farmers’ markets have two key relationships. One with farmers who sell and another with customers who buy from the farmers. This is a different business model than a grocery store, which buys goods from the farmers and sells to the consumers.

The way a farmers market would benefit from social media and technology is different than the way a grocery store would use technology. In fact, a grocery store is more likely to benefit from online shopping and home delivery. We are not at all saying avoid technology. We are saying understanding your business customer relationships will guide you into knowing the proper technology to nurture that relationship, particularly with your customers.

So, how will technology influence your business today?