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10 essential reads for doing Tech Business Strategy today

I’ve been helping quite a few software and tech businesses with strategy development, forward scenario modeling and business planning over the last year and a common question which comes up is “what reading would you recommend to find out more?”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more of a skimmer of web articles than a long-form reader and I very rarely make it to the end of any business book – though I do like to keep things on my Kindle to dip in and out when I need to refer back / when I’ve got time to read on the plane.

[Also I find that it’s often in sci-fi where the best ideas about long term technology trends get explored and surfaced as tangible outcomes – and although these concepts aren’t often directly applicable to today’s businesses, they help to extend the mind as to what *could* be possible.]

 

So anyway… the 10 books, blogs, newsletters and articles below (some old, some new) have helped form my thinking about how to understand and *do* effective tech business strategy against a constant background of exponential, disruptive change. Enjoy. 🙂

1. The Startup Owner’s Manual – Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

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Not a book about strategy at all – in fact, the “Lean Startup” movement of which Steve Blank is the progenitor is arguably “anti strategy”, advocating as it does rapid iterative experimentation and exploration to find that elusive product-market fit. There is more practical wisdom in Lean Startup guru Steve Blank‘s book than in most others put together. Fundamentally, don’t build it until you know they’ll come.

2. Good to Great – Jim Collins

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The classic timeless book which teaches about getting the right team on the bus first and then building a great, long lasting, business. Essential, uplifting reading.

3. The Singularity is Near

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Technological change is accelerating. Ray Kurzweil’s seminal work from 2005 seemed crazy at the time – but now his law of accelerating returns is generally accepted as underpinning the increasingly rapid changes we are seeing in the tech industry and society generally.

4. Crossing the Chasm– Geoffrey Moore

Crossing The Chasm Cover

Another classic text, focussing on the strategies and tactics for marketing technology products. The book leads from its opening definition of a Market:

“A set of actual or potential customers
for a given set of products or services
who have a common set of needs or wants, and
who reference each other when making a buying decision.”

…to define the technology adoption lifecycle and how there is a “chasm” between the “early adopters” and the “early majority”.

Chasm

5. Both Sides Of The Table – Mark Suster

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Entrepreneur turned investor Mark Suster’s blog provides insight, experience and purpose to guide tech entrepreneurs everywhere in the world.

6. The Business of Venture Capital – Mahendra Ramsinghani

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So much of today’s tech business is driven by VCs, it pays to know what drives them. This accessible guide is a great primer to the way the Valley works.

7. Exponential Organizations – Salim Ismail et al

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Salim Ismail hails from Singularity University where he has seen on a daily basis the impact of new exponential technologies on the business world. For example, Instagram, the classic “ExO” sold for $1Bn with only 13 employees. This book is the result of researching around 100 “exponential” companies across the world and looking for patterns in their data – and then creating a how-to guide: How can you build a new business with these principles? How can you retrofit these ideas into large organizations? The book introduces the IDEAS SCALE framework to identify the most common attributes of these “ExO”s:

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(Reminder: SingularityU NZ is happening in Christchurch, New Zealand this year 14-16 Nov).

8. The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen

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Another classic text: Clayton Christensen’s book argues that today’s successful companies put too much emphasis on customers’ current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers’ needs in the future, leaving them open to “disruption”. A whole subgenre of business books has been written taking one side or the other of this argument…

9. For Entrepreneurs by David Skok

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David Skok, VC at Matrix Partners is the granddaddy of SaaS. His classic 2012 article SaaS Metrics 2.0 – A Guide to Measuring and Improving what Matters is arguably the cornerstone of how the SaaS industry benchmarks itself today. His blog For Entrepreneurs goes wider and deeper and is a rich resource of writing to understand the software industry, tech business strategy and marketing.

10. Big Bang Disruption by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes

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This forthright Harvard Business Review paper from 2013 shows that disruption can come from nowhere and wipe out incumbent businesses – required reading for doing business strategy in the 21st century.

Bonus no. 11 – I’ve recently become an avid reader of the Andreesson Horowitz weekly email newsletter – a curated eclectic mix of what the folks at @a16z have been reading this month, at the bleeding front edge of tech, business and societal change. Sign up here: https://a16z.com/

Bonus no. 12 – This slideshare from RadiantMinds software (acquired by Atlassian in 2014) provides a whole practical roadmapping toolbox that I love to dip into from time to time.