What Works?

Modularity works, for one. For several years now modularity has been a key in new product development: Operations-based customer-driven product development.

Unused power slips imperceptibly into the hands of another- Konrad Heiden.

Thanks to the burst bubble more than one company has asked this question. We all know what REALLY works. Aside from carnal sins are there any other general strategies that can be applied across a range of businesses?

Well, yes. Modularity, for one. For several years now modularity has been a key in new product development: Operations-based customer-driven product development.

A quick look at this theory reveals that product development should respond to the market not only in terms of product features, but should also strive to ensure, product manufacturability, quality, reliability, increased factory flexibility; lower indirect costs, increased levels of service and reduced inventories.

These seem like lofty aspirations for an Internet company. Quality. Reliability. Lower direct costs. But they are achievable.

Take Asimba ( http://www.asimba.com ) for example. Asimba offers sports training programs (Running, swimming, skiing, etc.). In addition to offering customized exercise programs, Asimba offers dietary planning in order to achieve maximum performance. But they don’t stop there. They even GIVE you a shopping list in order to buy all the food you need for the next weeks’ training and meals. Nice. All for $15.95 per month (which is really cheap in case you have never looked for a personal trainer). Do you REALLY think Asimba creates customized exercise and diet plans for 20,000 people? No way. It is all based on modules.

They block similar activities together and plan what food types need to accompany those activities. Then they mix it up. I am sure if you use the service for several months you will begin to see repeating schedules.

Asimba isn’t alone. Dell uses this technique to produce its “customized” notebooks. Let’s say Dell offers 50 variables to make a customized laptop (screen size, processor, hard drive, etc.). By combining and recombining all 50, there are a possible of 2500 different combinations. Dell sells millions of computers a year. For argument’s sake, let’s say 1.5 million. That means Dell produces the same “customized” computer 600 times. They’ve based it on modules and economies of scale. That is the same approach Asimba has taken.

This is where we see a production theory (I know, production is so OLD economy) and apply it to digital business with successful outcomes. Asimba has done it. Microsoft does it with their base code for Office applications. And I’m sure you know some good ones too. Drop me a line if you know any good modular examples or post them online in our forums ( http://www.infonomia.com/english/opinion ).

Until next time- Happy “Moduleing”

Jason Ball

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