Weekly Download 14.4

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Innoveracy: Misunderstanding Innovation. Love it—the new term “innoveracy” defined as “the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation.” This quote has resonated with me: “Understanding that innovation requires passing a market test and that passing that test is immensely rewarding both for the creator and for society at large means that we can focus on how to make it happen. Obsessing over the mere novelties or inventions means we allocate resources which markets won’t reward.”

Disruptive entrepreneurs: An interview with Eric Ries. Digital technology is allowing entrepreneurs to “rent the means of production”.  Iterative innovation is critical within organizations as there isn’t just one entrepreneur trying to replace what you are trying to do, there are potentially thousands or tens of thousands.

Six must be the new magic number. A must read and must watch.6 Rules cover


Teaching Microsoft to Dance

Thai Elephant

Image courtesy of Aduldej / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twenty-one years ago this month, Lou Gerstner came from RJR Nabisco to take over at IBM. He cut billions of dollars in expenses and made tough decisions that no insider would have made easily, including cutting OS/2 (IBM’s PC Operating System) and eliminating the dress code (pinstripe suits, white shirts, wingtip shoes) and the “no alcohol” policy. At the time, IBM was perilously close to running out of cash. It was expected that Gerstner would oversee the company’s dissolution, but, instead, he executed an extraordinary turnaround that has become a classic business case study.

Certainly the situation today is different at Microsoft, but perhaps no less challenging. Which begs the question: can recently-named CEO Satya Nadella teach Microsoft how to dance?

Satya Nadella certainly forged new ground in his first public speech at Microsoft. For example, he was using an iPad on stage and referencing Android, while there was a relative absence of plugs for Microsoft Hardware.

Here are some of the dimensions of his challenge as I see it:

Old Model New Model
Desktop or Laptop PC Mobile and Cloud
Enterprise I.T. Support Cloud Support
Multi-year Large Enterprise or Package Software Pay-as-you-Go and micro-transactions
Multiple years between major releases A few days (or less) between updates
Focus on I.T. Professional Experience Focus on Consumer Experience
Vertical Stack of Technology Part of a Horizontal Ecosystem
Thick, feature laden client side software Thin mobile or zero footprint services

The list could go on.  Probably the biggest elephant in the room is the culture.  How do you reshape the hide-bound Microsoft ways fast enough to capture market opportunities?  The reshaping of Microsoft has begun—it should be interesting to watch.

In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my copy of Teaching Elephants to Dance. You can get yours on Amazon for a penny, or spend up for Gerstner’s first-person account, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

An Inquisitive Learner

Bookshelf 032514

Photo by Mark Baker

This past Saturday, I had the luxury of some free time to catch up on my reading (almost all on my iPad these days). Even with a voracious daily reading habit*, it’s still easy to accumulate a backlog of articles, blogs, etc. that have captured my interest.  On this occasion, I was able to leisurely explore links to other sources, revisit past MBA School learnings, and, of course, purchase a few books. It was a rich, engrossing and rewarding journey that reinforced my long-term enjoyment of being an inquisitive learner.

I don’t deal well with “canned” learning.  I’m always asking myself “why” and “really?” For that reason, many times in the past I’ve felt that teachers, librarians and parents have restricted my access to information. The internet represents a rich new frontier for an inquisitive learner, with unlimited possibilities for accessing media and thoughts of all kinds. That is, as long as you don’t allow its gatekeepers to plan and control your travel routes. This is how Google is killing the web is an interesting counterpoint to those who think Google is the Holy Grail. Does this ring true for you?  Are you an inquisitive learner?  How does this article strike you?

*Daily consumption includes:

Weekly Download 14.3


Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

IT Leader or IT Manager? How to Be the Best of Both. Lessons from Peter Drucker never get old. CIO Magazine applies them to IT professionals and executives.

Change leader, change thyself. Change: it’s a tough job that starts with looking inside.

HBR Blue Ocean Leadership. Focus on the Right things = true leadership. An interesting way to map “as is” activities versus “to be” activities. It was a good reminder for me!

The View through a Transformational Window

Blue Mounds horizon

Photo by Mark Baker

For about the third time in my career, I’m sensing a seismic shift in the IT world. The first was in the early 1990s, pre-Y2K, when the realization hit that we were moving from mainframes to distributed computing. Networking dramatically changed the way users could communicate, collaborate and exchange information.

The second was the dot.com bust and the subsequent transition to personal web-based tools. Seemingly overnight, iTunes, Kindle, Amazon, web email and various photo sharing options burst on the scene. Then fast forward to the next evolution that included social networking, YouTube, Netflix—etc., etc., etc.

Now, we are at a transformation window for the third time. In the business world, this translates to cloud-based computing, mobile platforms, high-speed wireless networks— again, etc., etc., etc. Factors driving these developments include:

  • The economy. It’s now truly global, increasingly competitive and 24/7. A multitude of significant issues in significant arenas (trade markets, freedom/security/privacy, environment, health, poverty and more) affect individual and companies worldwide, not just by country or geographic region.
  • Generational and demographic changes. How people connect with and use technology is as varied as each individual. Not only can users customize their experience, but it can be personalized to a market of one.
  • Technology.  Virtually unlimited communication bandwidth, storage capacity and power of computing is all available at low prices accessible to many.

The result of all this is a very different set of expectations from consumer/users in the marketplace. Better-faster-cheaper is the new norm. Rapid and transformational change is the new norm. Unfettered access to information, communication and ideas is the new norm.

This all begs the question: What are our greatest and best opportunities? Let’s take advantage of what is on the horizon before this window closes and we are on to the next.

Weekly Download 14.2

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Cloud technology meets Main Street? Microsoft’s new CEO, in his first public speech, emphasizes a “mobile-first, cloud-first” world, while using an iPad and introducing Office for the iPad. Office for iPad strikes me as a bit late and now irrelevant. Who even knows how or cares to create a Table of Contents?.

SAP is making its business suite available in the cloud via subscription. The branding people certainly didn’t get anywhere near this one…as it is officially called “SAP Business Suite via the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud” (whatever that means).

RIP Windows XP.  Windows XP is finally not supported as of 4/8/2014.  It was released 10/25/2001—who thought a desktop OS version could last that long? And it will continue on for some time in an unsupported fashion.

Convulsive Change

Amoco Chemical Far East Office SignIt’s been about 15 years or so since the rise and subsequent collapse of the dot-com bubble. This period was marked by some dramatic successes (think Amazon.com and eBay) and some spectacular failures. Who remembers the sock puppet from Pets.com? Clearly there were overhyped expectations that, in many cases, were impossible to live up to. But despite the volatile nature of the journey at times, some of the lessons learned from the winners include:

  • Listen to your customers and anticipate their needs, even before they can articulate them.
  • Look for trends in other industries that you could apply to your own.
  • Observe what is happening with market share and take proactive steps to secure your niche.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that real innovation frequently comes from outside the norm.

History has shown that innovation in the IT realm and the lead in applying these tools has not always been driven by from traditional IT companies, like IBM or Microsoft. One example is when SAP and Oracle became available on client server platforms that would facilitate integration with warehousing systems. Purchasing platforms came about where you could go to a website and order office supplies and hook your purchasing system into purchasing arenas (like Grainger). Then fast-forward to using Oracle to reengineer your business process so the technology could easily matched up invoices, receiving documents, etc. What a novel concept—reengineering work processes so the right info was set up at the front end, thereby maximizing technology and reducing time, expenditure of human resources and the potential for error.

There have been similarly experiences with knowledge work. Look at today’s workforce, working anywhere, anytime in the cloud. When I was at Amoco (now merged with BP), in 1989-90 working with their Hong Kong office. I made a couple of trips to Hong Kong and their representative came here. We were looking for a way to communicate internationally and wanted an IT solution that included email, word processing, and spreadsheets. IBM’s solution was something like $400,000 to implement. Instead, we put in a Novell network, which was pretty new at the time, for significantly less. This gave our Amoco Hong Kong based staff a precursor to VOIP (voice over internet protocol) that was literally channeled through a wire at the bottom of the ocean. Spending $10,000 per month on a data and voice line to Hong Kong not only met their business needs, but allowed employees to tap into the business line from home to connect with family overseas. The decision to go with the next generation solution was easy.

Once again, we are in a period of what I refer to as convulsive change in the IT department. We like to think it’s all new, but it’s not. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”