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jerryking : outward_looking   5

Microsoft Is Worth as Much as Apple. How Did That Happen?
Nov. 29, 2018 | The New York Times | By Steve Lohr.

Just a few years ago, Microsoft was seen as a lumbering has-been of the technology world.....the company had lost its luster, failing or trailing in the markets of the future like mobile, search, online advertising and cloud computing.....It’s a very different story today. Microsoft is running neck and neck with Apple for the title of the world’s most valuable company, both worth more than $850 billion, thanks to a stock price that has climbed 30 % over the past 12 mths.

So what happened?

* The company built on its strengths

There is a short-term explanation for Microsoft’s market rise, and there is a longer-term one.

The near-term, stock-trading answer is that Microsoft has held up better than others during the recent sell-off of tech company shares. The more enduring and important answer is that Microsoft has become a case study of how a once-dominant company can build on its strengths and avoid being a prisoner of its past. It has fully embraced cloud computing, abandoned an errant foray into smartphones and returned to its roots as mainly a supplier of technology to business customers.

* It bet big on the cloud and won …
Microsoft’s path to cloud computing — processing, storage and software delivered as a service over the internet from remote data centers — was lengthy and sometimes halting.... it did not have an offering comparable to Amazon’s until 2013. Even then, Microsoft’s cloud service was a side business. The corporate center of gravity remained its Windows operating system, the linchpin of the company’s wealth and power during the personal computer era. That changed after Mr. Nadella replaced Steven A. Ballmer, who had been chief executive for 14 years. Mr. Nadella made the cloud service a top priority, and the company is now a strong No. 2 to Amazon.....Microsoft has also retooled its popular Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a cloud version, Office 365......“The essence of what Satya Nadella did was the dramatic shift to the cloud,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the HBS. “He put Microsoft back into a high-growth business.”

* … while walking away from losing bets
When Microsoft acquired Nokia’s mobile phone business in 2013, Mr. Ballmer hailed the move as a “bold step into the future.” Two years later, Mr. Nadella walked away from that future, taking a $7.6 billion charge, nearly the entire value of the purchase, and shedding 7,800 workers.

Microsoft would not try to compete with the smartphone technology leaders, Apple, Google and Samsung. Instead, Microsoft focused on its developing apps and other software for business customers. Microsoft products, in the main, are about utility — productivity tools, whether people use them at work or at home. And its Azure cloud technology is a service for businesses and a platform for software developers to build applications, a kind of cloud operating system.

Mr. Nadella’s big acquisitions have been intended to add to its offerings for business users and developers. In 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, for $26.2 billion.

“It’s really the coming together of the professional cloud and the professional network,” Mr. Nadella explained at the time.

This year, Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for GitHub, an open software platform used by 28 million programmers.

* It has opened up its technology and culture
Under Mr. Nadella, Microsoft has loosened up. Windows would no longer be its center of gravity — or its anchor. Microsoft apps would run not only on Apple’s Macintosh software but on other operating systems as well. Open source and free software, once anathema to Microsoft, was embraced as a vital tool of modern software development.

Mr. Nadella preached an outward-looking mind-set. “We need to be insatiable in our desire to learn from the outside and bring that learning into Microsoft,” ......“The old, Windows-centric view of the world stifled innovation,” .....“The company has changed culturally.
cloud_computing  kill_rates  Microsoft  outward_looking  Satya_Nadella  Steve_Lohr  strengths  turnarounds  big_bets  walking_away 
november 2018 by jerryking
The path to enlightenment and profit starts inside the office
(Feb. 2, 2016): The Financial Times | John Thornhill.

Competition used to be easy. That is in theory, if not always in practice. Until recently, most competent companies had a clear idea of who their rivals were, how to compete and on what field to fight.

One of the starkest - and scariest - declarations of competitive intent came from Komatsu, the Japanese construction equipment manufacturer, in the 1970s. As employees trooped into work they would walk over doormats exhorting: "Kill Caterpillar!". Companies benchmarked their operations and market share against their competitors to see where they stood.

But that strategic clarity has blurred in so many industries today to the point of near-invisibility thanks to the digital revolution and globalisation. Flying blind, companies seem happier to cut costs and buy back their shares than to invest purposefully for the future. Take the European telecommunications sector. Not long ago most telecoms companies were national monopolies with little, or no, competition. Today, it is hard to predict where the next threat is going to erupt.

WhatsApp, the California-based messaging service, was founded in 2009 and only registered in most companies' consciousness when it was acquired by Facebook for more than $19bn in 2014. Yet in its short life WhatsApp has taken huge bites out of the lucrative text messaging markets. Today, WhatsApp has close to 1bn users sending 30bn messages a day. The global SMS text messaging market is just 20bn a day.

Car manufacturers are rapidly wising up to the threat posed by new generation tech firms, such as Tesla, Google and Uber, all intent on developing "apps on wheels". Chinese and Indian companies, little heard of a few years ago, are bouncing out of their own markets to emerge as bold global competitors.

As the driving force of capitalism , competition gives companies a purpose, a mission and a sense of direction. But how can companies compete in such a shape-shifting environment? There are perhaps two (partial) answers.

The first is to do everything to understand the technological changes that are transforming the world, to identify the threats and opportunities early.

Gavin Patterson , chief executive of BT, the British telecoms group, says one of the functions of corporate leaders is to scan the horizon as never before. "As a CEO you have to be on the bridge looking outwards, looking for signs that something is happening, trying to anticipate it before it becomes a danger."

To that end, BT has opened innovation "scouting teams" in Silicon Valley and Israel, and tech partnerships with universities in China, the US, Abu Dhabi, India and the UK.

But even if you foresee the danger, it does not mean you can deal with it. After all, Kodak invented the first digital camera but failed to exploit the technology. The incentive structures of many companies are to minimise risk rather than maximise opportunity. Innovation is often a young company's game.

The second answer is that companies must look as intensively inwards as they do outwards (e.g. opposing actions). Well-managed companies enjoy many advantages: strong brands, masses of consumer data, valuable historic data sets, networks of smart people and easy access to capital. But what is often lacking is the ambition that marks out the new tech companies, their ability to innovate rapidly and their extraordinary connection with consumers. In that sense, the main competition of so many established companies lies within their own organisations.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, constantly urges his employees to keep being radical. In his Founders' Letter of 2013, he warned that companies tend to grow comfortable doing what they have always done and only ever make incremental change. "This . . . leads to irrelevance over time," he wrote.

Google operates a 70/20/10 rule where employees are encouraged to spend 70 per cent of their time on their core business, 20 per cent on working with another team and 10 per cent on moonshots. How many traditional companies focus so much on radical ventures?

Vishal Sikka, chief executive of the Indian IT group Infosys, says that internal constraints can often be far more damaging than external threats. "The traditional definition of competition is irrelevant. We are increasingly competing against ourselves," he says.

Quoting Siddhartha by the German writer Hermann Hesse, Mr Sikka argues that companies remain the masters of their own salvation whatever the market pressures: "Knowledge can be communicated. Wisdom cannot." He adds: "Every company has to find its own unique wisdom." [This wisdom reference is reminiscent of Paul Graham's advice to do things that don't scale].

john.thornhill@ft.com
ambitions  brands  breakthroughs  BT  bureaucracies  competition  complacency  constraints  Fortune_500  incentives  incrementalism  Infosys  innovation  introspection  irrelevance  large_companies  LBMA  messaging  mission-driven  Mondelez  moonshots  opposing_actions  organizational_culture  outward_looking  Paul_Graham  peripheral_vision  radical  risk-avoidance  scouting  smart_people  start_ups  staying_hungry  tacit_knowledge  technological_change  threats  uniqueness  unscalability  weaknesses  WhatsApp  wisdom  digital_cameras  digital_revolution  historical_data 
april 2016 by jerryking
In Singapore, Building Businesses for the Next Billion - NYTimes.com
By QUENTIN HARDY

Singapore’s tiny size always forced it to look outward, whether servicing foreign ships or assembling electronics for export to Europe and the United States. Now that software is delivered over the Internet and almost everyone has a phone, Singapore still needs to export its business, but the regional market, with an extraordinary mixture of rich and poor, has a lot more potential....“There are over 1 billion people within a four-hour flight of Singapore,” said Hian Goh, a partner at Pivotal Asia Ventures. While that is true of a couple other Asian capitals, he noted, “nowhere else has the range wealth: Singapore’s $60,000 per capita GDP, and $3,000 in Laos. Technology is a force enabler for all of them.”

The expatriate ties are equally diverse, with companies from Russia and the European Union looking for cross-border investment, and individuals from South Africa and Slovakia who were drawn by the warm weather, easy business regulations and high-speed connectivity.

One incubator, called The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (the name has something to do with “just do it”), wouldn’t seem out of place in the Silicon Valley, except the house barista is more cosmopolitan.

This isn’t to say “there is better than here,” or “Asia wins.” Those responses are increasingly incoherent. It may not be that kind of contest, and for many of these people, even in a state as closely managed as Singapore, the nation matters less than connectivity and what local populations need.

They are building a world where tech travels everywhere, demolishing existing systems and changing societies.
start_ups  Singapore  globalization  venture_capital  vc  cosmopolitan  city-states  exporting  outward_looking 
october 2013 by jerryking
The 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers
Mar 20, 2012 | | Inc.com | Paul J. H. Schoemaker.
Adaptive strategic leaders--the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment--do six things well:

1. Anticipate. Hone your “peripheral vision.” Reduce vulnerabilities to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. ... Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better
2. Think Critically. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill, you must force yourself to reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes. Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions.
3. Interpret. Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, you are tempted to reach for a fast (potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:Seek patterns in multiple sources of data; Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously.
4. Decide. Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” Develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to: Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter, Balance speed, rigor, quality, and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers. Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views
5. Align. Consensus is rare. Foster open dialogue, build trust, and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to: Understand what drives other people's agendas, including what remains hidden. Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it's uncomfortable
Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support
6. Learn.

As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming.
Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
Shift course quickly if you realize you're off track
Celebrate both successes and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight
Do you have what it takes?
tips  leadership  habits  strategic_thinking  anticipating  critical_thinking  networks  biases  conventional_wisdom  decision_making  empathy  feedback  thinking  failure  lessons_learned  leaders  interpretation  ambiguities  root_cause  insights  paralyze  peripheral_vision  analysis_paralysis  reframing  course_correction  vulnerabilities  good_enough  debriefs  post-mortems  problem_framing  discomforts  wide-framing  outward_looking  assumptions  game_changers 
march 2012 by jerryking
Let strategic assets go forth and prosper
Feb. 16, 2011 | The Globe and Mail| Editorial TMX Group Inc. is
in a sense a strategic asset for Canada, as some people are saying, but
that is all the more reason why it should be free to expand its scope
and compete beyond Canada by merging with London Stock Exchange Group
PLC, giving Canadian issuers and investors wider opportunities. The
adjective “strategic” should not be a synonym for “to be
protected.”....Good strategy is outward-looking, not merely defensive.
TMX should be entitled to pursue its hypothesis that a transatlantic
alliance would make it, more than before, a strategic asset for
Canadians.
stockmarkets  LSE  mergers_&_acquisitions  M&A  TSX  editorials  TMX  assets  strategy  transatlantic  alliances  outward_looking 
february 2011 by jerryking

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