One of the most exciting takeaways from the Microsoft Fall Analyst session was a focus on One Microsoft as I wrote here.
Coming to their Convergence event in Atlanta this week especially with the backdrop of executive transitions happening in Redmond, I expected a bit of a regress to tactical messages. I expected more localized, VAR channel comfort zone talk and a bit of Magic Quadrant messaging and bashing of ERP and CRM competitors.
I was wrong.
Mike Erhenberg kicked off a pre-event analyst briefing spending nearly 30 minutes on the evolving Microsoft mission statement
Create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.
In a one-on-one he spent some time on the evolving matrix organization and how different Microsoft units decide who takes the lead across various initiatives and the cross-unit meetings that are much more common than he has seen in his long Microsoft career.
The terms “devices and services” came up quite often during the event. That’s a crisp distillation of the 7 competencies Microsoft had identified in the Fall event (operating systems, machine learning, natural UI etc.)
Kirill Tatarinov‘s keynote (transcript here, I will add video later when it is available) had many subtle and not so subtle hints of a Microsoft in transition. He highlighted Microsoft’s infrastructure role at the Sochi Olympics. Customers like Delta Air Lines and New Belgium Brewing talked about mobile devices in their flight crew and “Rangers” workforces. The Lotus F1 team discussed sensory analytics from the race track and the use of the Azure cloud. In a customer panel which followed the analyst questions ranged from BYOD and mobile devices to Azure usage. Accenture , not one of the traditional VARs, was on stage during the Kirill keynote discussing digital enterprises. Judson Althoff, who heads Microsoft’s North American sales was on stage describing how Microsoft internally uses its CRM in another indicator of the changing Microsoft go-to- market. The core in each segment was about Microsoft apps, and yet so many other devices and services were prominent. In a later one on one with Trek bikes I heard about their use of Azure for Infrastructure and Platform –as-a-service and their device strategy.
In a conversation with Wayne Morris, Corp VP of the MBS unit, he talked about how many MBS VARs were evolving to also offer Office365 and other Azure cloud services. He mentioned collaboration between the Advertising and Online unit with the CRM unit as they work with digital agencies.
Probably the most reassuring aspect of the move to a more unified Microsoft is the new CEO, Satya Nadella who has rotated through several roles at Microsoft Cloud (Azure, Office365 etc.), Online Services (including Bing) and Dynamics units.
In my 2009 book, The New Polymath, I described examples of companies which were blending infotech, healthtech, cleantecth, nanotech to come up with a brand new set of solutions. The book had sections on Bill Gates’ various health charities. It had a section on Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former CTO, a modern day polymath with his wide range of scientific, gastronomical, archeological and other achievements. It had a section on Microsoft’s’ growing Azure data center investments and innovations.
Microsoft has for a while had on its board, Ford CEO Alan Mulally who is credited with turning around the car maker with its One Ford strategy.
So, all the building blocks have been in place to see Microsoft act like a New Polymath. One Microsoft, its own unique manifestation of the concept, is starting to gather steam.
Time (sub required) has a detailed story on the elite team that rescued the HealthCare.gov site. You can feel the intensity of the salvage project, the apolitical results-oriented approach while the mood all around the project was hostile, the relentless use of “stand up” meetings, the brainpower of A+ technicians many of who have helped many Silicon Valley companies scale and scale big. In a few weeks they offset the disaster that teams many times larger and at the job much longer had brewed.
You wonder what if the team had been there a few weeks earlier, how we would not have even heard about the complexity of the project. On the flip side you wonder what if the President had decided to scrap the project and start over – a very real scenario described in the article.
But the critical point the article makes is
“But one lesson of the fall and rise of HealthCare.gov has to be that the practice of awarding high-tech, high-stakes contracts to companies whose primary skill seems to be getting those contracts rather than delivering on them has to change”
The problem is its not just an issue in Washington. Most IT projects have mostly B and C players, many from outsourcers, when they promise the A+ players. And it is not just during implementation projects – it actually gets worse post-live. You have to look at costs of hosting and on-going support of most enterprise apps to see how bad the problem is. Bring an elite team in, and within days they could easily identify ways to cut costs by 50-90%. Trust me that is even less like going to the moon.
“If you haven’t spoken to your retail customers about the Target breach, I recommend you do so immediately. You can bet that they’re reading up on the breach, have all sorts of questions and concerns, and are probably getting solicitations from other solutions providers promising to make them safe and feel secure. Next, offer to improve their data security by using antivirus tools, firewalls, and smart network design.”
Seriously, how many VARs know about the specific variant of the POS virus that is speculated to have been involved, especially since Target has been tightlipped and how many can deliver the A+ quality that could have prevented or quickly limited damage to the tens of millions of cards compromised?
We have to quit encouraging firms whose “primary skill seems to be getting those contracts rather than delivering on them”. As buyers, as industry observers, as vendors.
Lots of press like this around Delta’s decision to change its frequent flyer program starting in 2015 to reward dollars spent versus miles flown. Same thing happened with Southwest similar change couple of years ago. As I I approach the 3 million lifetime mile threshold with Delta, and with most of us in tech on the road so much, it should be a welcome change for business travelers.
The reality is as I wrote in 2012 and many readers commented most of us have learned the game. Those miles come with way too many strings attached and when you try to cash them – well, as I asked a Delta rep a few years ago “would you keep investing in a currency which keeps depreciating in value?”
In my opinion, the airlines have way too inflated a view of the importance of frequent flyer miles in our decisions. Non stops, newer equipment, comfortable seats, reliable wi-fi, on-time performance, not being greedy with fees are far more important considerations these days. One reason why after years of positive relationship with Southwest, several issues last year have taxed my loyalty to move half my budget with them away this year.
Now my daughter, as she ramps up her travel days, is much more into the mileage discussion. But she remembers the more generous times in the 90s when the family would go to Ireland each summer on Delta miles. Those days are long gone, as she is starting to find out.
InformationWeek has kindly run a column on the new book The Digital Enterprise. My basic premise is IT has become fun and profitable for most of the companies we interviewed for the book. The reason is they have moved past systems of record and even systems of engagement and are focused on systems of advantage.
During the edit, they dropped for reasons of length some other examples I had included in the column. They included:
Celso Guitoko, Global CIO at Nissan Motor, described the “steering-by-wire” and electric vehicle innovations their technology investments are enabling.
Echo Entertainment described how its casinos in Australia are exploring digital technologies such as RFID and facial recognition to provide better customer service.
Magne Frantsen described the Statoil Management System the company uses to manage safety and promote operational excellence across its massive exploration assets in the oil and gas industry. Optimized for its North Sea operations, the system is evolving to support the fact that 70% of its production is expected in 2020 to come from vastly different sources such as shale fields in North America and CO2 injected gas fields in Algeria.
Several executives talked about how customers increasingly expect personalization, so they'll have to embrace new marketing and production techniques around mass customization and agile shop floors to support it.
Of course, this is just a small sample of what the 350+ pages in the book describe. Other customers talk about complex event processing, agile robotics, semantic product memories, wearable computers, 3D visualization and many other technologies they are leveraging in their industries.
Download a Kindle version for only US $ 3.99 or EU 3.99 and read about the systems of advantage these companies are creating . And feel good doing so - Software AG is donating net proceeds to charity. Enjoy!
My blogs are celebrating their 9th birthdays – Deal Architect this month, its younger sibling New Florence in March. Together, they represent my longest “book” – 9,000 posts long.
It’s been quite a run. In many ways they are ying and yang. Deal Architect is punchier and reflects the voices and disappointments of many of my consulting clients about the pace of and payback from enterprise technology. New Florence is pure joy as I catalog innovation across products, places and projects.
In the earlier years, Deal Architect had an unfair advantage because my consulting practice and social network call signs used the same moniker. Also, enterprise readers used to have a narrow view of innovation and thought New Florence was too removed from their world. Boy has that changed, and in a sign of optimism for all of us that innovation is accelerating around the globe, New Florence has been growing at a faster pace than Deal Architect both in content and audience the last couple of years.
Blogging has brought me so many benefits
Readers from around the world – a pleasure to meet many of them during my travels
Many new friends including the Enterprise Irregulars, a group that came together in 2006
Fodder for 3 books I have worked on since 2009
A chance to invite many casual writers to guest blog. I am especially proud of the 2009 and continuing in 2014 series where nearly a hundred folks have written about how science and tech have helped evolve their passions and hobbies
An introduction to many obscure industries and places around world which constantly make me stop and go “wow”
I have so many people to thank
My sponsors who have been immensely supportive while respecting the independence rules I have laid out
Countless technology and other companies who keep me informed of their products and invite me to their events
Typepad, my blogging platform, which has performed without hiccup and at very reasonable investment. While many professional bloggers sneer at it, I challenge anyone to show me many service providers which could match the cost and service levels I have received.
Tools like MS Windows Live Writer and Bit.Ly that have helped format then compress addresses for thousands of the blogs
Google for bringing readers sometimes years after a blog is posted and from places farther than the mind could imagine would be interested in a post.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for allowing me to share these posts with a changing set of communities.
My parents for the DNA with the C – curiosity – chromosome which makes me look at and admire so many things others find not so interesting.
And again, my loyal readers
Look forward to your continued support as we march to the 10 year, 10K milestone. Thanks again.
One of the most closely watched metrics at the annual NFL Scouting Combine this time of the year is each athlete’s 40 yard dash timing. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference last year a panel decomposed that metric. How few times in real life play does a player get to run 40 yards uninterrupted? The first 10 yard burst is way more important. Speed/strength after contact at 10 yard point is way more important. It was fascinating to listen to this because slight variations in the 40 yard metric can affect which round a player gets drafted in and affect millions in his contract value.
Frank Markus has been writing for years about technology for Motor Trend magazine which constantly calibrates a whole set of metrics on many cars. He recently wrote an article titled “Surrender” and says “Engine control computers know pretty well how much fuel they're metering through the injectors, but that information is not publicly shared on the CAN data bus. Even when we've invested in unlocking the rich OBD data stream, we've found it difficult to capture accurate data except during steady-state cruising, and obtaining that rich data for every (sometimes preproduction) car is impossible.” Now abstract that many layers higher and see how imprecise the MPG, emissions and other data auto salespeople use and we as consumers take for granted from the car sticker.
I have been enjoying the fact that my FitBit tells me I have been working away 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day. My weight has dropped a bit, but I got a rude surprise in the men’s store recently. The salesman said I should be asking for “executive cut “ (ahem – you know what that means) not just 42 or 44 Long in my blazers. He laughed when I asked for the classic Brooks Brothers cut. Mea culpa – I should have read this 26 slide GQ guide to suits which shows a wide range of lapels, tapers, vents and other jacket features the tailoring world has been improvising
My point with all this is over and over in our personal and business lives even as we are into “quantified self” metrics and Big Data projects we are anchored around a handful of old-faithful units of measure. We benchmark by Yahoo finance metrics and Hackett process metrics and the underlying world has changed so much. Part of good analytics is to challenge sacred cow measures like that panel at the MIT conference was doing.
In the analyst/blogger/media world we have periodic flare-ups of “who’s more independent”. Nothing gets resolved but a few weeks later it flares up again.
Independence to me represents many shades of grey. When I joined Gartner from Price Waterhouse I asked about the independence forms I needed to sign. At accounting firms you had to annually disclose (and often divest) investments where the firm had an audit relationship. At Gartner the rules (at least in the 90s) were much less formal. On the other hand accounting firms were helping on all kinds of software evaluations and not disclosing to clients their implementation revenues from specific software vendors. Was one more “independent” than the other?
It’s a buyer’s judgment call. I have always respected clients who do quick diligence around my firm’s independence. That’s where the call needs to be made. To help them we have an independence policy for our blogs and all our sponsors have badges on the blogs for all to see.
In turn, we vet potential sponsors and the vast majority are by my invitation. Our sponsors, in turn, have been meticulously respectful of our independence. They know not to ask us to influence any buyer consulting engagements. They also do not ask for any confidential information from competing vendors. If you are planning a commercial relationship with my firm, I am always happy to have a thorough independence discussion.
On the other hand if you just want to glibly just talk about bias or about lack of independence as some vendors or analysts like to do, I wish they would in our age of Big Data run analytics on my 8,000 searchable blog posts over 9 years. And if they persist with their idle talk, don’t be surprised to see me tweet “If you are convinced we operate that way, how dumb are you to not spend a small amount on sponsoring our blogs?” That usually shuts them up.
There are so many amazingly positive visuals of Apple. Customers leaping for joy after they have lined for hours outside a store for their new device. My kids when we traded their Blackberries for iPhones. My kids and wife when they traded their Windows laptops for MacBooks (I am sole Windows holdout in the household). My wife as she walks around the house with YouTube on her iPad. Her store experience as she goes for training there. My eyes as my magazine and book reading has migrated to the iPad mini. Do I sound like a fanboi?
Actually over the last year I have been annoyed by some un-Apple like behavior
a) the seemingly un-integrated CRM system they appear to be running
b) The Lighting to USB cable – one that BusinessWeek asked about “Is this Apple’s worst product?”
When we bought our iPhones each came with a cable in the box. I bought 6 extra – for our cars and our travel. Well, given our young and mobile family and our friends the cables started to disappear at a rapid clip. At $ 20 a pop, like most parents I looked for options. Found some at Amazon for under $ 5 for the cube adapter and the cable.
Then word started spreading the knockoffs were an electric risk and I saw Apple’s offer to trade them in for $ 10 each. I took 4 adapters and cables to their store. For each I was emailed a Genius Bar reservation. I thought that odd but the appointments were sequential so did not pay much attention.
The store rep asked me where the associated devices were. I said with the family members who are at college. He said I needed to bring them in so he could get the serial numbers. I said surely Sprint registered them and they are in your CRM system. His response – not easily available to us in the store. After a while in the back room, he said he found 3 in the system so could only trade 3. His supervisor later intervened and offered to take all 4.
He also said the offer only applied to the adapter not to the cable. I asked if Apple knew only the adapters were causing the problems. He did not know but could not trade the cables.
I sent a letter to Apple HQ asking why the cables were not included in the offer. In their customer service process store questions are referred back to the store. The store manager called and left me a message “I remember you from your visit. I think we took care of your problem”. No further follow up. Another CRM failure.
A few weeks later my daughter’s iPhone power button had problems. The store initially told me her AppleCare did not cover that. Then they told her they did not show AppleCare associated with her phone – more CRM system issues. When I dug up the paperwork, they gave her a new phone.
Bang – she must have synched her new phone with one of the knockoff cables we still have and it shorted her MacBook. Back to the store and they said they were having many such issues. Four months ago I was told the problem was with the adapters not the cables.
With iOS7 Apple has added warnings if you try to use a knockoff cable. That’s certainly progress but it does not fix their CRM issues or the likelihood that at $ 20, many parents will continue to be exasperated and a new wave of knockoffs will surely keep showing up in the market while many old ones are still out in the wild.
I read this morning an Apple fan’s uncharitable view of Google and it occurred to me we all spent so much time on Apple v Microsoft, Oracle v SAP, IBM v HP type gossip, that we forget all the good technology work that is being done in corporate settings.
Well, in my small way, here is my counter balance – a column on Sand Hill celebrating the corporate technologist.
It will get a much smaller set of page views than the Apple/Google column, but you know what – last time I checked much as I admire both of them my car, my home appliances, the planes I fly and most other things in my life come from a very different set of suppliers – and I am more than happy to acknowledge all the innovations they are delivering.