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Buggy whips

One of the things that can be hard to learn is when you need to change the direction of your business. For many, this is a difficult decision because we have so much invested in the past that it is hard to let go. We, for example, still regret the unnecessary demise of the APL programming language.

And yet, the truth is that while you can still buy buggy whips – or still find someone programming in APL – you don’t need an MBA to know that staying in this business post-automobile was not, long term, a good idea.

Given your attachment to what you do, how do you know when it is time to move on and reinvent yourself and your businesses? The OPSEC process, which forces you to value your intellectual assets, can help by forcing you to realize that the value of your IP is declining. This seems fairly obvious, but assumes that you have an OPSEC program that is actually functioning in a manner consistent with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.

A less obvious indicator comes from the anti-competitive intelligence and anti-economic espionage function of OPSEC. A significant part of what OPSEC does is to force you to identify your adversaries, to identify that information which that adversary might wish to acquire (not necessarily that information you would like to protect from them), and place a value on the information and its loss.

If you see that the number and enthusiasm of your adversaries is diminishing, or that the valuation of your IP is diminishing, or if you see that your CI group – the folks because of whom your competitors run OPSEC programs – are no longer of value, it is a clear sign that something is amiss.

It is not easy for people to reinvent themselves, and it can be difficult for a company to divest itself of its outer functions and move its core values and core processes into another arena. And yet, the alternative is simply unacceptable. If the APL timesharing vendors had had a grasp of the fact that, as computers became affordable, time sharing – the only way that even major corporations could afford computing – was soon to be a thing of the past, they would have fared quite differently. Instead of refusing to sell companies their software, feeling it would hurt their already diminishing timesharing revenues, they could have become vendors of the software, and keep to its core skill of being consultants. Instead they forced their customers to move to other languages. If OPSEC can help you see change coming, it is yet another benefit of the process.

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