Fast Cycle Strategic Planning: An Applied Playbook

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While timescales will vary according to the problem you are addressing, the resources you have committed and the buy-in you have achieved, you can frequently develop a prototype within three months. For straightforward problems, expect a similar progression but over shorter timescales.

For particularly challenging problems, which require extensive data to describe the problem or new techniques to solve it, this timeline may extend significantly. The budget you require for your AI initiatives will depend upon multiple factors including:.


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Some challenges can be addressed with a readily-available third-party application programming interface API. Others may be solved with a single pass of data through an existing, public domain network architecture. Others still will require extensive research and multiple iterations of training and adjustment to meet success conditions.

The following strategies offer progressively greater functionality and uniqueness in return for increased spend:. We describe, in detail, the advantages and disadvantages of different development strategies in Chapter 4 of the Playbook. You may wish to develop a proof-of-concept, using your existing development team and third-party APIs or paid services, before creating a budgetary proposal.

Most companies then start with the small, dedicated AI team. Support from senior management in your organisation will be important for new AI initiatives to succeed. Your company may have a Board that strongly favours adopting AI; that sees AI as over-hyped and irrelevant; or has a healthy scepticism and seeks validation of benefits before assigning extensive resources.

To build support within your company, define the focus of your first AI initiative and then set realistic goals. If it can save effort, even if results require human verification, you can deliver increased efficiency. You can then present to senior management a plan that includes:.

Leaders may be reluctant to invest in technology they do not understand. To achieve buy-in, it may be necessary to educate senior management regarding the benefits of AI while setting realistic expectations regarding timescales and results. When deploying AI, anticipate the potential for cultural resistance.

For many in your team, AI will be unfamiliar. Some employees will see their workflows change. Many employees are concerned about the impact of AI on their job security. AI systems can be attacked in non-traditional ways. If a classification or grouping system is given an input beyond the scope of the labels on which it has been trained, it may assign the closest label it has even if the label bears little relation to the input.

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Causes of confusion, more broadly, may be exploited. Malicious individuals have manipulated system inputs to obtain a particular result, or to disrupt the normal practise of AI systems for example, by spraying obscure road markings to confuse autonomous vehicles. Protect against malicious activity via thorough system testing and exception handling, undertaken from the perspective of an individual deliberately attempting to undermine or exploit your system. When your first project is underway, anticipate the longer- term aspects of your AI strategy.

Your long term AI strategy should consider:. Sign up for our blog posts. Sign in. Get started. Insights Views Resources Website. David Kelnar Follow.

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MMC writes A collection of stories and experiences from the early-stage technology and venture capital communities. Curated by MMC Ventures. Love tech, venture capital, trends and triathlon. Which countries, and when 3. When is the right time to do international growth? What happens when you actually open an office 6. Your initial landing team 7.

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International might not be as different as you think 8. Or international could be really different. Data risks and regulatory norms Currency and payments challenges with international expansion Biggest mistakes in international launches. Wang had worked on international efforts at previous companies, but saw a unique spark of momentum in Dropbox from his first days there.

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Whether or not organic international growth might happen for a given product depends on the demographics of its user base and how connected they themselves are across borders, Wang says. Dropbox started in , and the product was not localized into any additional languages beyond English until But, by the time that first round of additional language versions launched, the international user base was already substantial.

Dropbox relied on a user-driven and virality-based approach to growth, rather than a strategy driven by sales or marketing. Companies that use on these latter methods of growth might have a harder time easing into an international strategy with significant internal reorganization required to focus on and succeed in expanding their business internationally, says Wang.

On the spectrum of enterprise to consumer-facing products, you'll generally see characteristics of less regulation, more peer-to-peer and word of mouth distribution, and thus more organic international reach towards the consumer end. This is an important consideration in deciding when and how much to invest in international. With so much variation by business model and product type, can you still apply a broader framework for international growth?

Can such a thing as an international growth playbook exist? Wondering the same thing, Wang says he consulted with peers at other companies like Pinterest before diving into international expansion at Dropbox. That next frontier could be international, or it could be a different platform, a second product, or a different customer base.

Sample evaluation of international expansion against feature launch, using the ICE framework. Wang believes that all of those expansion options should be evaluated against similar criteria:. Getting international right ease of execution requires significant time, internal bandwidth and specific know-how. The size of the opportunity is hard to evaluate when compared to looking at an adjacent market in a country you're familiar with or looking at an adjacent product that you can expand into, if a competitor is already doing it.

How much do geographies matter when considering international growth? Is it smarter to pick countries that are more similar to your current dominant markets, or look for more distant opportunities? Wang and his team broke down the results of their thought exercise into two categories of countries. The first group were countries where Dropbox was already doing well, had some amount of brand awareness, and would need to follow a double-down strategy to continue growing there. If the company were to spark growth and take that from 1 to 10, it would represent tremendous growth. High initial growth off a small base will often start to trail off, and the reasons become clear later.

At Dropbox, international growth was happening organically even before product localization, which posed an opportunity and a challenge for deciding if and when the company should pursue a more structured and dedicated international growth strategy. The company has prided itself on its customer support from the beginning, and for its premium tiers, technical support is an inseparable part of the core product experience, and an important differentiator from its competitors.

When Dropbox first started its structured international expansion, another experiment it ran was offering its live chat sales service during European working hours while the landing team was still based in San Francisco.


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And yet, six months later, when Wang was in Dublin visiting their initial landing team, he heard a different story. Instead, they sent core staff from Dropbox SF to live and work on the ground for a year and a half. Instead, it was as if they were running a startup within the company, and that startup happened to have a great product Dropbox with an initial toehold in the European market that it wanted to expand. The landing team was a startup breaking ground in a new market, but it was also a flag-bearer for the Dropbox culture in a new office far away from San Francisco.

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Wang says he takes a project-based approach to growth. For international expansion especially, he looks for generalist problem-solvers who are willing to take on a variety of startup-style tasks. Japan was a big exception for Dropbox, but for other locations, the company started with a default U.

Experimentation is key to a productive growth function, and yet might not be as translatable as many U. Wang says it depends on the sales life cycle of your product, starting from initial awareness and including how people transact and complete the sale. For example, in Japan, many people go to the equivalent of a Best Buy to purchase software.

The setup creates challenges for a recurring subscription product — how do you encourage or automate renewal? Another area often overlooked by U. For many business customers, there is a strong preference for data to be located outside the US. A lot of the hesitation ends up being about data privacy, not just customer support or sales norms, and much of it has less to do with specific regulatory and technical compliance than with trust.

For example, a German company may be sharing files with a design firm in Argentina, which means that the data will be shared into Argentina at some point.


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Another area that the Dropbox team spent time optimizing was payments.