I recently started using the Hashtag #openandfree on Twitter to track my conversations on the topic (Open & Free as a Business Model), some very interesting things are starting to come out of these conversations. The conversations also trickle away from using the hashtag, but I still get the interaction. Whether I’m speaking or consulting, there is always a series of questions, How do I know what should be free content and what do you mean by open? I’m usually surprised by the questions because, well, when I dig a little bit, it becomes obvious to me. It’s not that I’m smarter than anyone, it’s just what I’m listening for and or looking for are the opportunities in and around their business. Most people are too close to the problem(s), that’s the difference, if they could step outside of themselves and look at their business the way they did when they worked on the first draft of their business plan, they might see what I see. I think it’s human nature to see other individuals challenges and have solutions for them rather than our own.

I’ll touch on the 1st question of what content should be free. It’s can be easy to figure out, but it’s mostly confusing for most, because business owners are trained for control, conditioned to old business models where free is not done.  It’s always about what you can get, rather than what you give. Being open means you aren’t keeping all your content behind walls, where access is much more difficult to obtain. It put things out in the open and trust the quality of that content, and you need to learn to trust the people formerly known as consumers. They might pay for your content on their own, you can no longer force them to pay, because they will go and not come back. The new acronym is PFE (Proudly Found Elsewhere).

The thrill is when the lights come on after just a couple questions, and then show a simple effective way to get the creative juices flowing again, that’s all it is really. We need to think outside the box, even unlearn what we know about commerce and advertising. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes we can’t see the forest for the tree’s, it’s like writer’s block and the like, you can sit and spin your wheels for what feels like hours, or hire someone to come in and kick start the creative gene.

By using the hashtag (#openandfree) on Twitter I’m collecting data, I’m looking for ways to help, and I will always direct you to come here for the basic steps. If you are a DIY (Do It Yourself) kind of person, then poke around here on my blog and chip away.

A recommended exercise is, ask yourself this question:

What is your CORE Business about?

Now we tend to struggle with the CORE because nothing is static anymore, press on and you will get the picture. Don’t stop on the first answer, drill down and ask yourself the question three or four times until you can answer the question in a preferably short accurate sentence. Get your answer down to a simple statement, crafted in a clear concise way that the masses will understand easily. Sometimes it can’t be kept short, but you want your prospect or the person you are sharing with to get it quickly, then you can move on to the next point or question knowing they understand.

Once you’ve arrived to a satisfactory statement, you now can begin the process of figuring out your content questions. But that’s another blog post.

This step also helps you design the why of your business, assuming you haven’t completed a business plan, that’s called the vision.

Does this make sense to you?

I wrestled with this question for some time, I mean the whole idea of charging for my content was foreign to me when I started running my first site. In studying the trends of online commerce, and the Open & Free Business Model, it was clear that many people were asking the same question, what should I be writing about and what content should I be charging for.

In working with local business owners, they aren’t even paying attention to what’s really going on, online commerce is just a nice to have rather than a strong component of their business. Meaning, they think it won’t get much bigger than another advertising medium or to just make a few extra dollars. They still practice the price & item approach, the control business model is what they know and trust. My goal is to help as many local businesses understand a different way, and to see the tidal wave that is coming, to pay attention and change the way they think.

A simple exercise is to walk through following:

1.) What is your CORE business about? The first question I usually ask is, what does your business do? Normally, the answer coming back is a description of what the person does or a very high level answer. I would say I am a Technology Strategist, that really doesn’t tell you much does it? You have to ask that question differently two or three times before you get to an answer that gives you a much better understanding. Keeping asking yourself until you get to the real thing that you do.

Knowing what your CORE business is about, helps you with your content, it will help you focus on what the free part might be over the paid part. This seems overly simplistic but it’s not, working through this is much tougher than I’m writing it.

2.) What’s your vision? This is the WHY, why are you doing what your doing and where are you going. That’s pretty simple isn’t it, not really, there is a process to working through what your vision might be.

3.) What is your Mission? Again, something that seems simple but really isn’t. What’s your mantra, your war cry? You want everyone to know it and to be shouting it throughout your organization, even if it’s just you.

You might ask these questions in reverse, whatever makes sense to you. Someone once said recently, keep it simple, simple is hard enough, I try to keep it simple by asking simple questions to tough problems.

These three questions can help you, and it can help you determine what will be free and what will be paid. Keep in mind, there are only three ways to get paid…I pay, you pay, they pay.

This is one way of figuring out what should be free, if you are a writer, write! But write about the thing you are passionate about. Write short stories for free and offer paid for lessons on how to write short stories properly, or writing construct, get creative. Hold writing workshops that are paid for and offer writing tips for free on your blog or newsletter, help your community get what they want, and they will help you get what you want.

This is just one small part of the Open & Free Business Model, the framework is actually straight forward but the details are much harder to figure out. The sooner you start, the better your Blogging experience, and knowing what content should be free makes your blogging life alittle easier.

We looked at Markets in the 1st part of the Analysis section of our plan, and in this post I want to share with you about Key Success Factors you’ll want to identify for your I.T. Strategic Plan. Every business has them and some even know what they might be but many don’t, these are things that you believe you are delivering or close to delivering at 100% in your organization. These would indicators that allow the organization to have a high level of productivity. You might think hiring smart people would fit in here but they don’t, they actually fall under the next category in our Analysis called Core Competencies.

Think of this area similarly to fixed assets that can be modified or changed, (sounds like an oxymoron but…) here are a few to consider:

1. Application software availability approaching 100%

2. Network availability approaching 100%

3. Provide Infrastructure and tools for appropriate access to data by staff

Those may be reasons why your organization is able to function at a higher level of productivity, resulting in greater results and possibly profitability. Again, only you and your team can decide what these Key Success Factors might be, they are important to making your case when securing your next years budget. The entire I.T. Strategic Plan plays a huge role in your budget and your job security over the next 3 – 5 years.

Even having a rough draft of your I.T. Strategic Plan gives you a solid view of what your organization is doing and or shifting towards, and to meet customer demands. Consider how this allows you to see patterns and an opportunities, giving you ample time to make adjustments before delivering this plan to executives and board of directors. Regardless of who you have to deliver this message to, the exercise helps you and your team more, it’s a guide or a map of where you are going and what you need to do.

Your primary customers that can undo you the fastest are those you work closest with, staff and field staff, word of mouth there needs to be top drawer or you’ll have a short window of opportunity to do what you do best. Customer support on ALL levels has to be the best you can provide to prevent a change you can’t control.

In the next session I’ll touch on Core Competencies.


How are I.T. Decisions made in your business or organization? Who makes those decisions? One of the challenges with non-technical upper management decision makers getting involved is, it’s usually about them wanting a particular toy or functionality. I.T. decisions are based on one or a select group of people because they are the bosses and get what they want or it’s in the name of getting something done. I have found that making technology decisions in that fashion usually cripples your ability to shift gears down the road, you end up implementing the wrong solution and you spend two to three times the dollars fixing the problem later. What you do today matters, do all you can to prevent it and do the painful work of finding a more rational solution if you can. Oh ya, whenever possible avoid database conversions as it will add to the scope of the project(s).

On your journey to make things easier for you, collect and database all business processes in your organization and weight them for measurement, then consult all subject matter experts in the organization to ensure by-in before you go off finding a solution. Remember, it’s not who wants it or what kind of technology that’s the issue, what’s paramount is knowing what your organization needs. Which means you have a good understanding of the company you work for and it’s systems.

Another thing to consider, what is the perceived value your business or organization has on Information Technology and the Systems it uses to organize data. If your new prospect or management team doesn’t understand the value of technology, you now have an educational task on your hands.

Another challenge business owners have is discerning who they should trust, there are so many EXPERTS out there confusing and complicating the problem. There are key questions that can be asked to qualify the said consultant to assist you and your organization with technology strategies but that’s another article.

The point is, organizations handcuff themselves by allowing only non-technology people to make long term technology decisions. That’s not all bad but it’s not wise to have 100% of all I.T. decisions made by them in isolation. In most cases they will invest in something and then hand it off to the I.T. department with a note attached, ” Make this work with our systems”. They know what they want the system to do and or what they want to have happen. They don’t understand how existing systems work and what they will or won’t work with, at the core, non-technology people are unable to see and know where technology is going, what may solve problems in 3-5 years…don’t worry most of us don’t, but, technology people know how and where to find out. They understand the order in which you should proceed, they understand what you have and what you should look for in solutions.

If you have questions feel free to contact me at: owen@owengreaves.com