Richard Branson’s (CEO Virgin) management style and CIOs

Industrialist Richard Branson at the Time 100 ...

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You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

Richard Branson, Entrepreneur and businessman (1950-)

Today’s article is the tenth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner and the late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Richard Branson started his working life in the 60’s by starting a magazine called, ‘Student’ and has never looked back. He is an entrepreneur that defies the usual rules of business. He sold his record label and company and started Virgin Atlantic defying convention and established business practices as he not only had no experience of the airline industry but was also stepping into a hugely competitive marketplace. He also took on the might of British airways when he claimed that his business had been the victim of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign. In both cases, he proved that he could ‘win’ and has since gone from strength to strength.

Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this icon of modern business. (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Succession planning and his reputation: RB – “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”

Richard Branson has created autonomous companies under the Virgin umbrella, precisely so that these companies can operate without him. Succession planning has been ‘built in’ to the very core of Virgin. As such, it is important for CIOs to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

2. Spotting opportunities: RB – “If something is a good idea, consider it, then work out how to make it happen.”

As someone who has created 200 plus companies, the lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Focus: RB – “Whatever you sell, first identify your market.”

Richard Branson has always identified markets where he can add value. That has often happened in an already crowded marketplace, with existing competitors. The secret to his success is that he enters these markets and creates and delivers products, better than his rivals, usually through value for money and a better customer experience.

CIOs needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

4. Talent acquisition: RB Employees think for themselves. They have good ideas to listen to. What is the point of hiring bright people if you don’t apply their talent?

Richard Branson believes in empowering his employees to make the decisions and to make it happen.

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct and allow his/her staff to get the job done and to believe in their capabilities. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

5. Handling barriers and roadblocks: RB – “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable, challenges and trying to rise above them”

It is hard to stop someone who knows how to tackle barriers and roadblocks. CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. Create challenges for your employees and set them targets that ‘stretch’ their capabilities.

6. Successful innovation: RB -. Pioneer, don’t follow the leader, Drive for change  

CIOs need to think how they can do their jobs differently to provide competitive advantage for their companies. As IT becomes standardised across many industries, it will become harder to differentiate the IT offering. Look harder, competitive advantage is still achievable through innovative uses of IT. The question is whether you as the leader can locate and exploit it?

Virgin has proved that such success is achievable. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

7. Earn respect: RB – “Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

CIOs need to care more about their staff and have to understand and overcome any difficulties that they face in their everyday jobs. Caring managers will always be able to deliver better results.

8. Family commitment: RB – “Divide your private life from your work life. The break down in family live has played a big role in lack of social cohesion and skills.”

This is an aspect of life that I firmly believe in as well. Time cannot be turned around or replaced. It is very important that we spend time with spouses and spend time with our children. As they grow up we have to ensure that they become responsible and active citizens. A work/life balance is crucial and ensures that we work optimally.

9. Learning: RB – “People don’t leave their jobs through lack of pay – they leave because they aren’t valued. Many companies leave people in boxes; encourage them to be adaptable and innovative.”

All great leaders have made it a habit to constantly learn. RB constantly interacts with his employees and is always open to suggestions on how to improve the business or to welcome ideas about new business.

10. Business reputation: RB Detached from values, money may indeed be the root of all evil, but linked effectively to social purpose; it can be the root of opportunity.

Richard Branson believes in the power of money to achieve a better world and he constantly strives for that through his Virgin unite charity. As he became involved with the airline industry, he started to look into ways of offsetting the carbon footprint of Virgin through the usage of eco-friendly fuels etc. Companies’ need to support the eco system that they operate in.

CIOs need to understand that IT systems can enhance and assist companies to become better corporate citizens and need to look for these opportunities

11. Follow your instinct: RB – ‘Never let facts get in the way of a good idea. If something is what you really want to do, just do it. Whatever your goal is you will never succeed unless you let go of your fears. It’s easy to give up when things are hard but we have to keep chasing dreams and our goals; once we decide to do something, we should never look back, never regret it. I rely on my gut instinct more than thick reports.”

CIOs need to listen to their inner voice and recommend changes accordingly.

12. Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’RB-“Staff first, then customers and shareholders, Shape the business around the people. Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them. For the people who work for you or with you, you must lavish praise on them at all times,” Branson says. “If a flower is watered, it flourishes. If not, it shrivels up and dies. People don’t need to be told where they’ve slipped up or made a mess of something.”

13. Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. – RB – Around the world we’re looking at taking the brand into a number of different industries. Our criterion is, will it fulfil the Virgin yardstick of being good value for the money? Will it enhance the brand by bringing great quality? Will we have fun doing it and can we make it profitable? If those criteria work, then we’ll seriously look at a new industry.”

Above all, you want to create something you are proud of…. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off doing nothing

14. Relax and feel at home RB –“Work should not be a chore and should be fun. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

CIOs often forget to create a culture of fun within their department. This results in a high turnover of staff. Create strategies such as allowing staff to spend a percentage of their time on projects that they want to do. The more staff enjoy work, the more productive they will become.

15. ‘Image’ is everything. – RB – “Outstanding brands are built around great people who deliver consistently great customer service every day.”

CIOs need to change their images from just being technology leaders to leaders who understand business and can apply their strategic IT and business skills to the wider business.

16. Employees’ performance: RB – “As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back.”

Branson hires the best and brightest people that he can and then allows them to have a stake in the ownership of that business. CIOs need to become better at delegating tasks, trusting employees to get the job done.

17. Earn respect by ‘listening’: RB – “You learn more by listening to other people.”

18. How do you run this company? RB – “I’ve had to create companies that I believe in 100%. These are companies I feel will make a genuine difference. Then I have to be willing to find the time myself to talk about them, promote them and market them. I don’t want to spend my life doing something that I’m not proud of.”

19. Time Management: Richard Branson spends an equal third of his time on trouble shooting his businesses, new projects (business/charity) and on promoting and marketing his businesses while creating time for family and vacations.

More:

Lesson #1: Be A Good Leader

Richard Branson and the Virgin group of companies in 2004

Leadership by IBEC.IE

Management style of Richard Branson

The importance of being Richard Branson

Michael Walenius blog – The leadership style of Richard Branson

Time – Many times a virgin

Time Video – 10 questions for Sir Richard Branson

Time – How to raise a billionaire

Time – Q&A – Virgin founder, Richard Branson

15 small business lessons from Richard Branson

Five secrets to business success by Richard Branson

Richard Branson as a leader

Business book notes – Richard Branson – Screw it let’s do it

Richard Branson’s, Screw it, let’s do it (Review)

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Steve Jobs (Chairman Apple) and Tim Cook’s (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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UPDATED: 08/10/11 – This post is dedicated to one of my heroes and role models, Steve Jobs, 1955-2011, Thanks for the inspiration. May God bless you.

In February 2010, I posted the blogpost – Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs that is currently my most successful blogpost. This post attracts so many people that the search, ‘apple management style’ will return this article as the number one post. That’s without any adwords!

With the arrival of Tim Cook as Apple’s new CEO, a lot has been written comparing the two. I actually debated about writing an article on Tim Cook’s management style as well and spent the last two week’s debating the direction to take. In the end, I decided that it would be best for me to re post the original blogpost in its entirety. That decision was made because so much has been written about Tim Cook (both in the past and currently) that it would be better to leave all my readers with some appropriate links to get an idea of Tim Cook’s management style.

The most interesting part from my point of view was that I found older articles, in many cases, better than the current articles as they were quite speculative and gave solid reasons for why Tim Cook should be chosen as Apple’s next CEO. In contrast, the current articles do not have to speculate anymore and as such just wrote about Apple’s new CEO supported by content mostly from a few years ago. Anyway, below is the full text of my previous blogpost (Just after the links), Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs:

Tim Cook: my first-person impression of Apple’s new CEO by TUAW
Described as “relentless”, the New York Times profiles Tim Cook
The genius behind Steve – Could operations whiz Tim Cook run the company someday? by CNN
Tim Cook’s Challenge: Sorting Out Apple’s Chinese Supply Chain by Forbes
‘Operations Guy’ Tim Cook Gets Chance to Shine At Apple by CIO.com

This article is an article in a series of articles where I will analyse current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders. I have broken down Steve Job’s style into two distinct pieces. The management style and the presentation style.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

In an interview with Fortune, Steve Job’s (SJ) opened up about his management Style (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. SWOT analysis: As soon as you join/start a company as a CIO, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.

2. Spotting opportunities: SJ – “We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Improve productivity: – SJ – “We figure out what we want. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.”

As a CIO, we need to ask ourselves, what can we do that will improve our customers or our own productivity? That could entail listening to your customers, horizon scanning or simply taking action on something that you feel would help you, your team/and/or customers.

4. Business/IT Strategy: SJ – “We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants.”

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

5. Competitive advantage: SJ – “It is the intimate interaction between the operating system and the hardware that allows us to do that. That allows us to innovate at a much faster rate than if we had to wait for Microsoft, like Dell and HP and everybody else does.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few weeks ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?. Sometimes, it makes sense not to embrace open platforms, as Apple has created a significant competitive advantage, by keeping it’s hardware/software systems closed. CIOs need to make such decisions cautiously.

6. Succession planning and his reputation: SJ – “My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do. My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”

CIOs need to be facilitators and to bring people together working towards a common goal. It is also important to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

7. Focus: SJ – “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

A CIO needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

8. Talent acquisition:They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

9. Know your business and innovate: SJ – “I put out an agenda — 80% is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.”

The CIO and the entire IT department need to know how the business operates, preferably, as intricately as possible. It is that complete overview that will allow innovative opportunities to present themselves.

10. Handling barriers and roadblocks: SJ – “And we pushed the reset button. We went through all of the zillions of models we’d made and ideas we’d had. And we ended up creating what you see here as the iPhone, which is dramatically better.”

CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. There is no shame in that as the project has to deliver the project’s core objective.

11. Customer conversion: SJ – “But if we put our store in a mall or on a street that they’re walking by, and we reduce that risk from a 20-minute drive to 20 footsteps, then they’re more likely to go in because there’s really no risk.”

CIOs need to help the businesses by utilising IT to create opportunities in attracting additional customers. They need to ask themselves, “How can we assist in taking the business to the consumer”?

12. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: SJ- “What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.”

I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader. This means that they need to stand by that conviction and avoid losing people in economic downturns.

13. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure: SJ -. “Will this resonate and be something that you just can’t live without and love? We’ll see. I think it’s got a shot.”

Apple has proved that failure can lead to success and continues to innovate by investing in many technologies. Some will inevitably fail while others such as the iPod and iPhone will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

14. Earn respect: Steve Jobs can be a hard boss to work with but Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. CIOs need to command respect from their employees and that is something that has to be earned!

I want to conclude this part by finishing off with a quote that shows us that even with his god like innovative powers, Steve Jobs remains human. “Steve proves that it’s OK to be an asshole,” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist. “I can’t relate to the way he does things, but it’s not his problem. It’s mine. He just has a different OS.”

As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm said. “He’s at the absolute epicentre digitisation of life. He’s totally in the zone.”

The Presentation Style

For the second part, I am reproducing an article written by Carmine Gallo in BusinessWeek for his new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. For this book he watched hours of Jobs’ keynotes. Here he identifies the five elements of every presentation by the Apple CEO. CIOs can improve their presentations by using these five elements.

1. A headline. Steve Jobs positions every product with a headline that fits well within a 140-character Twitter post. For example, Jobs described the MacBook Air as “the world’s thinnest notebook.” That phrase appeared on his presentation slides, the Apple Web site, and Apple’s press releases at the same time. What is the one thing you want people to know about your product? This headline must be consistent in all of your marketing and presentation material.

2. A villain. In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. In 1984, the villain, according to Apple, was IBM (IBM). Before Jobs introduced the famous 1984 television ad to the Apple sales team for the first time, he told a story of how IBM was bent on dominating the computer industry. “IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple.” Today, the “villain” in Apple’s narrative is played by Microsoft (MSFT). One can argue that the popular “I’m a Mac” television ads are hero/villain vignettes. This idea of conquering a shared enemy is a powerful motivator and turns customers into evangelists.

3. A simple slide. Apple products are easy to use because of the elimination of clutter. The same approach applies to the slides in a Steve Jobs presentation. They are strikingly simple, visual, and yes, devoid of bullet points. Pictures are dominant. When Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, no words could replace a photo of a hand pulling the notebook computer out of an interoffice manila envelope. Think about it this way—the average PowerPoint slide has 40 words. In some presentations, Steve Jobs has a total of seven words in 10 slides. And why are you cluttering up your slides with too many words?

4. A demo. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain gets bored easily. Steve Jobs doesn’t give you time to lose interest. Ten minutes into a presentation he’s often demonstrating a new product or feature and having fun doing it. When he introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, Jobs demonstrated how Google Maps (GOOG) worked on the device. He pulled up a list of Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the local area and said, “Let’s call one.” When someone answered, Jobs said: “I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding.”

5. A holy smokes moment. Every Steve Jobs presentation has one moment that neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” The emotionally charged event is the equivalent of a mental post-it note that tells the brain, Remember this! For example, at Macworld 2007, Jobs could have opened the presentation by telling the audience that Apple was unveiling a new mobile phone that also played music, games, and video. Instead he built up the drama. “Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device…an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator…an iPod, a phone, are you getting it? These are not three devices. This is one device!” The audience erupted in cheers because it was so unexpected, and very entertaining. By the way, the holy smokes moment on Sept. 9 had nothing to do with a product. It was Steve Jobs himself appearing onstage for the first time after undergoing a liver transplant.

One more thing…sell dreams. Charismatic speakers like Steve Jobs are driven by a nearly messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, “In our own small way we’re going to make the world a better place.” Where most people saw the iPod as a music player, Jobs recognized its potential as a tool to enrich people’s lives. Cultivate a sense of mission. Passion, emotion, and enthusiasm are grossly underestimated ingredients in professional business communications, and yet, passion and emotion will motivate others. Steve Jobs once said that his goal was not to die the richest man in the cemetery. It was to go to bed at night thinking that he and his team had done something wonderful. Do something wonderful. Make your brand stand for something meaningful.

For more of Job’s techniques, flip through this slide show. Then catch a video interview with Carmine Gallo about how he researched his book.

‘You’ The Brand and ‘Social Media.’

Social Media Iceberg

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

James D. Miles (1830 – 1914) Steamboat Captain in the Northwest

Some of you may remember, the television shows of the 80’s where TV series/serials, used to start with, ‘Previously on xyx.’I felt a bit nostalgic today, so I will start the same way. Previously on my blog, I have written about Social Media (SM) in various contexts. I wrote about the effect of SM on a friend’s daughter – The ugly side of social media, the conundrum facing CIOs – The Social Networking dilemma and the CIO, a quick primer on SM – Social Media Primer – Succeed by using LinkedIn and blogs, Toyota and its failure to use SM – How Toyota became the werewolf and the three step process to embrace SM: Organisations “Don’t get” social media (UPDATED, RECOMMENDED READING FOR THIS POST, with ALL NEW SM monitoring tools for both personal and business use). It is becoming evident though that some organisations have become adept at SM, as witnessed by Ford’s recent Ford Explorer, campaign. “We couldn’t think of launching a vehicle today without launching it early using social media,”Jim Farley, Ford’s Vice President for Global Marketing – Courtesy of Social Media Explorer.

Senior management need to understand the business and how IT can be utilised to provide competitive advantage – Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? The problem these days is that many CEOs start working at new employer’s without taking the time and effort to understand and appreciate the business and its culture. Without understanding fully, their business, there is no way for them to realise the potential within their existing or future procured IT systems. In addition, many businesses still have their IT chief’s reporting to CFOs. Without board level representation, IT cannot deliver any benefits to the bottom line. Within that context, Terry Leahy fully understood the impact of IT and allowed his CIO, Philip Clarke to analyse and innovate. In effect, Philip Clarke, successfully created, ‘Philip Clarke, the brand.’ Can anyone create a successful brand, using the Internet and Social Media? The answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes’. I will now outline the steps. The secret to leveraging the success of SM is to integrate, disseminate and monitor SM (automate as much of this as possible, especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints).

Integration: If you are thinking of setting up a new business or personal brand, Google Apps could be the ideal platform for you. I covered this previously, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality. Google Apps Premiere edition was recently named as  Google Apps for Business and now incorporates all the FREE apps that used to be available to personal Google/GMAIL account holders, such as my favourites, Google URL shortener and Alerts. Regardless, of whether you are a small business or corporate, the website needs to provide analytics to ascertain demographic analysis, page views, referrals (Which sites are referring your site) and statistics and words used for searches conducted, using tools such as Google Analytics. The website also needs a blog feature (Or if you are building your personal brand, enable a personal blog using WordPress/Blogger (Free)). The blog needs to auto connect with SM to deliver posts (Such as, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and YouTube) automatically.

Dissemination: A decision has to be made on which SM will be most effective in disseminating information (News/blogposts/articles) to your target audience. For example, with the launch of the Ford Explorer, Ford decided to use Facebook.  Appropriate profiles for various SM (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc) need to be created. There is plenty of information available on the Internet, to help in creating these profiles but the rule of thumb is that all of your SM profiles, need to be as similar to each other as possible, across all SM. Again, automate as much of this as possible, (especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints)

Monitor: Once SM has been integrated and dissemination profiles/channels are completed start monitor ing‘key people and blogs and setup appropriate RSS feeds’ for content/people that your business needs ‘to follow’ in order to keep abreast of trends in your field. Monitoring also needs to be setup for adverse comments, as the case with Toyota (See above) highlights. As SmartPhones are prevalent now, appropriate phone apps need to be setup to provide the ability to monitor, regardless of location.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with some Twitter cheat sheets that also include other SM tools etc as well (Courtesy of the following):

Geneabloggers.com-Twitter-Cheat-Sheet

@gminks of Adventures in Corporate Education’s Cheat sheet

The Social Media guide.com’s Cheat sheet

The public you.com and Rich Sauser’s Cheat sheet

Louis V Gerstner (CEO IBM 1993-2002) management style and CIOs

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine (1952)

Image by Chemical Heritage Foundation via Flickr

“Watch the turtle. He only moves forward by sticking his neck out.”

Louis V Gerstner, Jr (1942 – ) IBM CEO 1993-2002

Sign in Louis Gerstner’s office:

THERE ARE FOUR KINDS OF PEOPLE:

THOSE WHO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE TO WHOM THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE WHO WATCH THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE WHO DON’T EVEN KNOW THINGS ARE HAPPENING

Today’s article is the eighth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

I don’t usually read a book and write about it but I really liked Louis Gerstner’s (LG) very own style of writing and the way that he turned around IBM. In 1993, IBM was losing market share and perhaps on the verge of bankruptcy. Louis Gerstner accepted the job and walked into this situation without really knowing whether he could revive IBM to its glory days.

This series is about leadership and this is the first time I am moving away from offering my thoughts on how CIOs (and others) can apply these leadership practices within their own businesses. The main reasoning is that, I will from now on leave it to my readers to apply what they have learnt from my blog posts. I am increasingly conscious that my readership now envelops many disparate disciplines and I am grateful for that. It has always been my intention that I disseminate my knowledge to others who may benefit as well. After all, knowledge taken to the grave is knowledge lost!

For the full version, please read the book, Who says Elephants can’t dance – Inside IBM’s historic turnaround by Louis V Gerstner. I am also grateful to Harper Collins as I have used excerpts from the book itself.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Louis Gerstner started his working in life with McKinsey & Company in 1965, joined American Express as their Head of Travel related Services Group in 1977 and accepted the CEO’s position of RJR Nabisco in 1989. Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this icon of modern business and technology. (In no particular order):

1. Success in general may be built on failure:

As LG started his new job at IBM, he met with the Corporate Management Board (Top 50 executives of IBM) and told them that he had not looked for the job and took it reluctantly as he thought that the responsibility was important to the country’s competitiveness and health. He then went on to outline his expectations:

i.            Eliminate bureaucracy by decentralising wherever possible while ensuring the right balance with central strategy and common customer focus.

ii.            Benchmarking costs against those of competitors and then achieving best in class status.

iii.            Layoffs maybe necessary (Let’s not kid ourselves)

iv.            IBM management wanted to breakup IBM into smaller autonomous businesses. LG said, “Maybe that is the right thing to do, but maybe not. We certainly want decentralised, market-driven decision making. But is there not so offer comprehensive solutions, a continuum of support? Can’t we do that and also sell individual products?”

v.            About morale, he said, “I want can-do people looking for short term victories and long term excitement.” He also told the audience that it would be his priority to utilise internal talent rather than bringing in outsiders.

2. How did he want to run IBM? LG -.

  • “I manage by principle, not procedure.
  • The marketplace dictates everything we should do.
  • I’m a big believer in quality, strong competitive strategies and plans, teamwork, payoff for performance and ethical responsibility.
  • I look for people who look to solve problems and help colleagues.
  • I sack politicians’.
  • I am heavily involved in strategy; the rest is yours to implement. Just keep me informed in an informal way. Don’t hide bad information – I hate surprises. Don’t try to blow things by me. Solve problems laterally; don’t keep bringing them up the line.
  • Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast rather than too slow.
  • Hierarchy means very little to me. Let’s put together in meetings the people who can help solve the problem, regardless of position. Reduce committees and meetings to a minimum. No committee decision making. Let’s have lots of candid, straightforward communications.
  • I don’t completely understand the technology. I’ll need to learn it, but don’t expect me to master it. The unit leaders must be the translators into business terms for me.“I would say a few things. First, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you learn, so I believe a lot in trio al and error and course corrections. Often companies are unwilling to admit when they’ve made a mistake. We tend to question things more in our business.

                                              

3.        SWOT analysis: LG pointed out five ninety day priorities on joining IBM and they were:

I.            Stop the bleeding of cash as IBM is running out of money.

II.            Ensure that IBM is profitable by 1994 (LG joined IBM in April 1993).

III.            Develop and implement a customer strategy for the next two years (93,94) that indicated to the customers that IBM had returned and was there to serve them.

IV.            Complete the ‘right sizing’ of IBM.

V.            Create ‘an intermediate-term business strategy.

4.        Constant analysis: With regards to mainframe pricing, LG was convinced that the reason IBM was losing out to competitors was that IBM had the pricing strategy all wrong, so he reversed it with ‘an aggressive price reduction. In addition at a conference attended by approx 175 CIOs and after listening to them during the conference, LG laid out his expectations:

I.            IBM priorities would be redefined, starting with the customer.

II.            IBM laboratories would be allowed to do what they wanted to do and would deliver open, distributed, user based solutions.

III.            IBM would be easier to work with, would recommit to quality and re-establish its leadership position.

IV.            IBM would work for the customer and deliver the performance the customer wanted.

5.        Improve productivity: As LG moved forward with re-inventing IBM, he took the following measures to improve productivity:

  • All of IBM would stay together as one company and not converted into autonomous units.
  • IBM economic model would be altered, such as expenses as IBM were spending 42 cents to produce $1 of revenue while its competitors were spending only 32 cents..
  • Business re-engineering would be undertaken. For example processes and systems would be reviewed as internally IBM had 128 CIOs!
  • Underproductive assets would be sold to generate much needed cash.

6.        Business reputation and brand: IBM had never had a true Head of marketing and just like the processes and the 128 CIO scenario, marketing was controlled by countries and business units etc. That resulted in a totally disjointed marketing campaign. The new Head of marketing decided to consolidate all of IBM’s advertising relationships into a single ad agency. This spawned the “Solutions for a Small planet” and was followed by the coining of the term, “e-business.”

7.        Rating of employees’ performance: – In the past, I have reviewed many CEO’s management style but Eric Schmidt’s and Louis Gerstner’s style is the closest fit to Deming’s ‘Annual rate of performance’ that I have yet come across.

“This was all about pay for performance, not loyalty or tenure. It was all about differentiation: Differentiate our overall pay based on the marketplace; differentiate our increases based on individual performance and pay in the marketplace; differentiate our bonuses based on business performance and individual contributions; and differentiate our stock-option awards based on the critical skills of the individual and our risk of loss to competition.”

8.       Spotting opportunities: While looking for opportunities, LG met the Head of ISSC (IBM Subsidiary), Dennie Welsh. The opportunity that Dennie had spotted would change IBM forever. “He told me that his vision of a services company was not one that did just IBM product maintenance and strung together computer codes for customers, he envisioned a company that would literally take over and act on behalf of the customers in all aspects of information technology-from building systems to defining architectures to actually managing the computers and running them for the customers. My mind was afire. To be truly successful, we would have to do things that would shake the place to its roots. For example, the services unit would need to be able to recommend the products of Microsoft, HP, Sun and all other major IBM competitors if that, in fact, was the best solution for the customer. Of course, we would have to maintain and service these products as well.”

9.        Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’ – Watson, Sr had created the original culture of IBM but over the years, IBM personnel had moved away from the original ethos of that culture and had started to interpret it quite differently to how it was originally intended. LG made it an imperative to change the IBM culture that was a better reflection and fit for the changing times. The original culture hinged around:

  • Excellence in everything we do. – This became an obsession with perfection. The culture that developed threatened to halt IBM due to checks, approvals and validation meant that decision making just ground to a halt.
  • Superior customer service.- This translated into “servicing IBM machines on customers’ premises”, and as a result the customer’s real needs were usually not entertained.
  • Respect for the individual. – This meant that employees expected their entitlements regardless of performance. This meant that in many instances the best people were not getting what they deserved.

10.     Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. – LG “I was always amazed at how many executives thought that “vision” was the same as “strategy.” Vision statements are for the most part aspirational, and they play a role in creating commitment and excitement among an institution’s employees. Good strategies start with massive amounts of quantitative analysis –hard, difficult analysis that is blended with wisdom, insight, and risk taking.”

11.      Business/IT Strategy/principles: LG- “I am struck by how much of the culture change of the following ten years they describe”

LG outlined eight principles that were to envelop the business strategy and underpinned the new IBM culture.

1)        The marketplace is the driving force behind everything that we do.

2)       At our core, we are a technology company with an overriding commitment to quality.

3)       Our primary measures of success are customer satisfaction and shareholder value.

4)       We operate as an entrepreneurial organisation with a  minimum of bureaucracy and a never-ending focus on productivity.

5)       We never lose sight of our strategic vision.

6)       We think and act with a sense of urgency.

7)       Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team.

8)       We are sensitive to the needs of all employees and to the communities in which we operate.

12.     Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ – LG – “We’re getting our butts kicked in the marketplace. People are taking our business away. So I want us to start kicking some butts-namely, of our competitors. This is not a game we’re playing. We have got to start getting out in the marketplace and hitting back hard. I can assure you, our competitors are focused maniacally on these charts, and they talk us down constantly. For example, this from Larry Ellison (CEO Oracle): “IBM? We don’t even think about those guys anymore. They’re not dead, but they’re irrelevant.”

13.     Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees. – LG was once asked, “What do you really want people to do?” He answered, “Win, execute and team.”

  • “WIN:    It was vital that all the IBMers understand that business is a competitive activity. In the new IBM there would be no place for anyone who lacked zeal for the contest.”
  • “EXECUTE:         No more studying things to death. In the new IBM, successful people would commit to getting things done – fast and effectively.”
  • “TEAM: This was a commitment to acting as one IBM, plain and simple.”

14.     Focus: LG – “History shows that truly great and successful companies go through constant and sometimes difficult self-renewal of the base business. They don’t jump into new pools where they have no sense of the depth or temperature of the water.”

15.     Quality management: LG ”But alas, too often the executive does not understand that people do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

16.     Succession planning and his reputation: LG – “When IBM’s Board of Director’s considered who would succeed me, passion was high on their list of necessary attributes. Sam Palmisano (Current IBM CEO), my successor, is an extraordinary executive – a man of many talents. However, he would never have had my recommendation, despite these many talents, if he didn’t have a deep passion for IBM, for what it stands for, for what it can be, for what it can do.”

Warren Buffet’s (World’s most successful investor) management style and CIOs

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Image via Wikipedia

“You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”

Warren Buffet (1930 – ) World’s most successful investor

Today’s article is the third in a series of articles (First was written on Steve Job’s – Apple CIO followed by Michael Dell (CEO Dell) analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men and a very successful investor.  For today’s blog post I have selected a truly unique individual. He works from his office that lacks a computer and surprisingly his desk is bereft of research on stocks and shares.

Before we go any further, one particular event caught my attention that captures a facet of Warren Buffet’s management style. So, I have decided to share it with everyone. According to BusinessWeek, ‘We arrive late to Paris, touching down in a freakish, near-gale-force windstorm that both thrills and alarms our pilot. In four cars, we race as fast as rush-hour Paris traffic allows from Le Bourget to Dassault Aviation Group’s magnificent 19th century chateau–familiarly known as Le Rond Point–on the Champs Elysees. EJA is the largest commercial customer of Dassault Aviation, Europe’s leading manufacturer of business jets. Serge Dassault, the company’s chairman, is hosting tonight’s gala reception and dinner in Buffett’s honor. By the time we arrive, the reception is in full swing. But Buffett takes a few steps into the foyer and hustles up a flight of stairs. It will be a good 35 minutes until he descends and joins the party.

Downstairs, the guest of honor’s whereabouts is Topic A among Dassault’s distinguished guests. It might puzzle them to learn that Buffett is on a transatlantic call to one of his employees. The matter he is discussing with Ajit Jain this evening is not urgent. But it is Buffett’s custom to speak with Jain every evening. If that means keeping 200 of France’s richest people waiting, then c’est la vie.’

What can CIOs learn from Warren Buffet’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Business assessment: When looking to invest, Warren Buffet looks to satisfy ‘five’ essential criteria, equally CIOs can apply similar criteria when looking to invest their expertise towards business assessment. Buffet – ‘Never invest in a business you cannot understand.’

Warren Buffet investment criteria CIO ‘business’ assessment criteria
1 Is the company simple and understandable? Is the business model, simple and understandable?
2 Does it have a consistent operating history? Has IT consistently assisted the growth or well being of the company?
3 Does it have favourable, and predictable, long- term prospects? Is IT viewed favourably within the company and can IT predict how it can help the company’s long-term prospects?
4 Is the management competent and honest? Is the IT management team competent and aligned to the business vision?
5 Is the underlying business undervalued? Is IT undervalued? How can IT deliver ‘more’ value from existing resources?

2. Ownership: In the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) annual report, Buffett wrote of his holding company: “We tend to let our many subsidiaries operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree. Most managers use the independence we grant them magnificently, by maintaining an owner-oriented attitude.” Buffett wants Berkshire Hathway’s managers to think like owners. Their rewards are tied exclusively to the achievements of their own businesses, not those of Berkshire Hathaway – a principle to which Buffett holds very strongly. “We delegate to the point of abdication,” Buffett says in Berkshire’s Owner’s Manual. CIOs need to instil their teams with similar beliefs. Every individual within the CIOs team needs to think as if they were the ‘owner’s’ of the business, especially the CIOs main management team.

3. Risk assessment and crisis management: Buffet – ‘If there is any significant bad news, let me know early’. The team need to have confidence in the CIO, in order that ‘bad news’ events/issues/problems can be resolved prior to them mothballing to the ‘point of no return.’ ‘An investor needs to do very few things right as long as he or she avoids big mistakes.’

4. Succession: Buffet – ‘send me a letter updating your recommendations as to who should take over tomorrow if you became incapacitated tonight. Anything you send me will be confidential’. CIOs need to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

5. Business reputation: Buffet – ‘Look at the business you run as if it were the only asset of your family, one that must be operated for the next 50 years and can never be sold’. He adds that ‘We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. We cannot afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.’ CIOs need to understand that IT systems can enhance and taint a company’s reputation. The recent BP oil spill crisis reflects that as it had a devastating effect on BP’s reputation, wiped millions off its share price, cost billions to settle claims and control the oil spill. Additionally, the irrecoverable loss of both human and marine life, coupled with the environmental damage leaves the oil giant in shambles.

6. Quality management: ”What I must understand is why someone will continue to get out of bed in the morning once they have all the money they could want,” Buffett says. ”Do they love the business, or do they love the money?” CIOs need to have a team that enjoys working within IT and associated line of business.

7. Competitive advantage: Warren Buffett was once asked what is the most important thing he looks for when evaluating a company to invest in. Without hesitation, he replied, “Sustainable competitive advantage.” CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few months ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? Companies with a sustainable economic advantage need honest, capable and hardworking leaders to retain their lead. Berkshire-Hathaway’s managers have one instruction: Widen the moat. That keeps the castle valuable.

8. Use numbers to season the points you serve — they’re not the main dish: (Points 8,9,10,11 courtesy of the Harvard Business Review blog) Buffett doesn’t just report on the underwriting gains of their insurance businesses and let the numbers stand for themselves; he explains the terminology, what the numbers mean, and how he and Charlie Munger, his business partner, view them. Case in point: “Our $58.5 billion of insurance “float” — money that doesn’t belong to us but that we hold and invest for our own benefit — cost us less than zero. In fact, we were paid $2.8 billion to hold our float during 2008. Charlie and I find this enjoyable.”

9. Use analogies and metaphors. A great example is Buffett’s description of how many of us felt after the economic collapse in 2008: “By year end, investors of all stripes were bloodied and confused, much as if they were small birds that had strayed into a badminton game.” And he goes on to describe the government’s response: “In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone ‘all in.’ Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel.” These metaphors do more to explain his points than paragraphs of technical jargon ever could.

10. Be honest and transparent. Buffett follows-up a recap of 2008 successes with the following revelation: “During 2008 I did some dumb things in investments. I made at least one major mistake of commission and several lesser ones that also hurt. I will tell you more about these later. Furthermore, I made some errors of omission, sucking my thumb when new facts came in that should have caused me to re-examine my thinking and promptly take action.” Instead of deflating his credibility, this kind of refreshing candidness makes the audience more trusting of whatever else he might say: after all, he’s clearly not hiding anything. ‘It is more important to say “no” to an opportunity, than to say “yes”.’

11. Use facts to put things in realistic context. After explaining how bad the economic situation was in 2008, Buffett gave a fact-based context for how to view these realities. “Amid this bad news, however, never forget that our country has faced far worse travails in the past. In the 20th Century alone, we dealt with two great wars (one of which we initially appeared to be losing); a dozen or so panics and recessions; virulent inflation that led to a 21 1/2% prime rate in 1980; and the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment ranged between 15% and 25% for many years. America has had no shortage of challenges. Without fail, however, we’ve overcome them. Compare the record of this period with the dozens of centuries during which humans secured only tiny gains, if any, in how they lived. Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time.”

12. Follow your instinct: Buffet – ‘Do not follow the crowd. Ignore the market, the crowd, and its fashions.’‘It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.’

13. Research: Buffet – ‘Do not rely on outside analysis. Do your own research – and do it thoroughly.’ Do not often act on a hunch. Always have sound, well-argued, well-researched reasons for your investments.’

14. Trustworthiness and integrity: Developing characteristics such as trustworthiness and integrity, Buffett believes, is a matter of forming the right habits. “The chains of habit are too light to be noticed until they are too heavy to be broken,” he says. People who stray from these values often show up on Wall Street; they may initially even shine; but eventually they self-destruct. “That is sad, because it does not need to happen,” says Buffett. “You need integrity, intelligence and energy to succeed. Integrity is totally a matter of choice — and it is habit-forming.”

15. Buy at the right price: Purchases must be made at the right price if they are to pay off.

No less an authority, John F. Welch, CEO of General Electric Co., considers Buffett a superb judge of managerial talent. Buffett and Welch have gotten to know each other over the years as golf partners and as rivals in auto insurance and other businesses. ”Take 20 people you know quite well but Warren has just met casually,” Welch says. ”If you ask Warren his opinion about them, he’ll have each one nailed. He’s a masterful evaluator of people, and that’s the biggest job there is in running a company.”

Asked why he has not retired despite his phenomenal wealth, Buffett said the reason is that he has more fun doing what he does than anything else. “The fundamental thing is that the process should be fun,” he said. “I had just as much fun when I had $10,000 to invest as I do now. It’s crazy to do things for your resume. It’s like saving up sex for your old age. You should do what you enjoy as you go along, and work with people you admire. I look forward every day to the next day. I’m wired for this game.”

For the long haul, Warren Buffett’s way must be best. As an associate says, ‘somehow Warren has been able to keep a diverse cast of characters working harder for him than they did for themselves. I see it every day – and I still don’t know how he does it’. Having read all the above, though, you will have a good idea of the maestro’s magic methods. Use them.

Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?

“Don’t do what you know. Do what you don’t know about what you know.”

Mile Davis (1926 -1991) American Trumpet Player, Bandleader and Composer

Following my post on 19th May, Cloud based ERP is fast establishing itself as an increasingly dominant force within the ERP arena. Ubiquitous Internet connectivity combined with access to more bandwidth at affordable prices, both by businesses and consumers have propelled cloud based solutions as being commercially viable. Cloud based ERP solutions are also challenging existing licensing models. The larger providers such as SAP and Oracle are struggling to compete with this new model and are looking at ways to combat this new threat to their established revenue stream. Newer established entrants within the mid tier market continue to embrace cloud computing and are increasingly vying for competitive advantage.

In my view, Google Apps will increasingly challenge established players providing enterprise systems, such as Microsoft. The likes of Google Apps will also challenge established ERP players as more offerings become available. For example, Netsuite will soon be available on Google Apps and My ERP seems like a credible solution for smaller businesses and is FREE for the first two users! One of my readers, Houston Neal, recently had a roundtable discussion on the state of the manufacturing ERP software industry, including solutions popular among small and medium enterprises that provides an interesting insight into many facets of ERP software.

Cloud based ERP providers available at the moment are: Acumatica, Agresso, CDC Software, Consona, Compiere, DataXstream and virtualised SAP, DSP managed services – advisors for Cloud based Oracle E -Business suiteDynacom, Epicor, Global Shop Solutions, IFS, Intaact, IQMS, Lawson, Microsoft, MyERP, Netsuite, Oracle Cloud Computing Centre, Openbravo, Plex systems, Sage, SAP Business by Design, Salesforce and Glovia Cloud Solution, Syspro

ComputerWeekly, recently ran an interesting and complete 4 part Buyer’s Guide to ERP software that discussed quite intensely both the traditional and new, cloud based ERP models. Following are excerpts that I have used from part 1, glued together to form the following and then I will list articles that provide further in depth analysis and reading, courtesy of ComputerWeekly and others:

In Part I, Cliff Saran wrote, ‘The idea behind enterprise resource planning (ERP) is to provide the business with a single product that provides software to support the main business functions in a company. The major products such as SAP and Oracle claim to encompass the best ways to run business processes. But since they cater for large complex businesses, such systems are often too sophisticated for smaller organisations that may not have the same requirements in terms of scale and complexity of business operations.

SAP and Oracle may be great for providing enterprises with industry-standard business processes, but standardisation erodes the unique selling point in smaller businesses. George Lawrie, principal analyst at Forrester Research says, “SMEs are worried by the high maintenance fees and complex implementations associated with major ERP software.”This is why a market has grown for ERP aimed at SMEs. “Mid-market ERP tends to offer vertical specialisation,” says Lawrie.

Suppliers such as Salesforce.com have made it possible to put customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the cloud, but core enterprise resource planning (ERP) has so far remained untouched. If IT departments can make considerable savings switching from in-house systems to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS), why stop at CRM? Businesses should consider using the cloud for ERP.

Andrew Vize, who as propositions director runs Computacenter’s CIO panels, says, “The efficiency of services from Google and Amazon is superb. They offer the lowest power costs and are five to 10 times cheaper than traditional small datacentres.”

It makes sense for an IT director, but the major ERP suppliers have been reluctant to move to cloud computing. SAP has been touting its Business ByDesign SaaS suite for smaller companies.

Meanwhile, Oracle offers its middleware and database products on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), but does not recommend putting E-Business Suite ERP software in the cloud.

Oracle states in a blog post, “Since Amazon EC2 uses a virtualisation engine that is not supported by Oracle and has not been certified with E-Business Suite, this environment is not supported for production usage of E-Business Suite. Using Amazon EC2 for hosting E-Business Suite may be suitable for non-production instances, such as demonstrations, test environments and development environments.”

In fact, it is far from clear how the major ERP suppliers will charge for cloud-based ERP. The significant ongoing revenue they receive from annual software maintenance from on-premise applications makes it harder for established ERP companies to offer considerably cheaper software licensed on a monthly subscription basis.

However, smaller software companies are making cloud ERP float.

Cloud computing company NetSuite has unveiled workflow management software, SuiteFlow, which enables users of cloud computing business suites to automate and streamline complex business processes. NetSuite says SuiteFlow allows businesses to customise workflows to support the way they need to work.

Companies can use SuiteFlow to develop and deploy new business processes. NetSuite says it can be used to support processes such as contract renewal workflows with tasks, reminders and customer notifications, sales processes that include mandatory data entry, follow-up tasks and rep notifications, and customer support processes, including inactivity reminders, escalations and service level agreement (SLA) enforcement.

Lawson Software, which has mainly focused on traditional ERP, has moved into the cloud by offering its core Enterprise Management Systems and Talent Management suite on Amazon EC2 infrastructure. The products will be included in the Lawson External Cloud Services offering, which is part of the company’s Cloud Services portfolio.

Lawson’s cloud ERP service is targeted at mid-sized companies and organisations looking for a more affordable, flexible and agile deployment option for full-function enterprise software.

“We are making it easier for our customers to license, use, keep current and even pay for Lawson full-function enterprise software. This should be great news for CFOs and CIOs who worry about lengthy and complex on-premise installations, the cost and inefficiency of their datacentres, the best way to allocate IT staff, and the complexity and difficulty of maintaining software versions and upgrades,” says Jeff Comport, senior vice-president of product management at Lawson Software.

Similarly, open source ERP provider Compiere, which is used by companies such as Specsavers, has developed a version of its product that works on Amazon Web Services in the cloud.

Some experts believe it is unlikely ERP will move wholesale into the cloud. The major ERP systems tend to be architected as large homogenous IT systems, which may not be such a good fit for delivery via the internet cloud. Licensing major ERP systems to deploy via the cloud is still immature. Instead, niche software companies are likely to build cloud-based services that do many of the functions of ERP.

“We will have much more specialist systems that do a slice of ERP,” predicts David Bradshaw, IDC research manager for software and services in Europe.’

Cloud-based ERP could be the way forward for small- and mid-sized companies. Both Oracle and SAP offer products aimed at smaller businesses such as JD Edwards from Oracle and SAP Business ByDesign. These may have a better fit with certain organisations, But implementing on-premise traditional mid-market ERP systems will be the most likely approach businesses take until cloud computing has matured.

Gartner sees an increasing availability of software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP systems, and, unlike in large enterprises, where SaaS ERP use is limited, SaaS ERP is playing an increasingly important role in both back- and front-office applications for mid-market companies. Cost reductions in implementation and operation are one of the important drivers for SaaS ERP, and SaaS offerings avoid the need for upfront capital expenditures because they can be funded as an operational expense. However, when analysing the total cost of ownership of SaaS ERP over five years, Gartner finds that SaaS is not necessarily less expensive than on-premises ERP.

NetSuite is the largest example for a SaaS-based ERP suite. It offers a broad range of application modules, including financials and accounting, purchasing, payroll, order management, inventory control, and employee management, as well as built-in integration with its CRM and e-commerce capabilities on the same platform. Gartner has spoken to customers that expressed a high level of satisfaction with NetSuite’s offerings.

Other notable SaaS ERP players are Plex Online (previously Plexus Online) and Glovia. SAP has also announced an on-demand ERP solution called SAP Business ByDesign.

Open source has been used extensively in infrastructure components, but it has a limited impact on ERP at this point. In the past two years, however, some new open-source software ERP suppliers have emerged with a focus on leveraging open source software to reduce the total cost of ownership of business applications, and to enable customisations that would be difficult to achieve without access to source code. Although we have doubts as to whether open source software business models actually confer these advantages on open source software ERP, these early stage offerings are nonetheless promising and should be evaluated. Examples for open source software ERP suites include Compiere and Openbravo.

Although increasing in importance, none of the SaaS or open source ERP solutions met the inclusion criteria for this Magic Quadrant, because of their number of sales or product focus. Gartner’s ERP Magic Quadrant, (2010 Quadrant) criteria do not explicitly exclude SaaS or open source packages. The analyst firm is actively tracking their progress and expects their inclusion in future versions of its Magic Quadrant.’

For more:

Detailed research lists from the largest USA ERP installations

Search Manufacturing ERP

Part I Buyers Guide to ERP: Alternatives to SAP and Oracle ERP suites

Part II – Buyers Guide to ERP: the mid-tier market

Part III – Buyers Guide to ERP: Agile ERP

Part IV – A guide to ERP for small and large businesses

Putting ERP in the Cloud

How to achieve ERP success: part 1 – the A-Team

How to achieve ERP success: part 2 – the software

ERP software suppliers – Essential guide

Buyers Guide to ERP: Midlands Co-op case study

Make your ERP rollout succeed

Lawson’s New Amazon Cloud-Based ERP Supports Customization

Epicor Takes the Wraps off Cloud-based ERP Solution

Amazon.com Offers Compiere Enterprise ERP via the Cloud

ERP and Cloud Computing trends

Lawson Software Introduced Cloud-Based Services

Prepare to mashup

Links updated 12.12.11

The majority of this article has been ‘mashed-up’ courtesy of four IET articles that appeared in issue 5, 24th March edition.

Mashup is a relatively new concept that originated within the computer industry in the early 2000’s. ‘Raj Krishnamurthy (Chief Architect at JackBe Corporation) and Deepak Alur (VP Engineering at JackBe Corporation) started working on Enterprise Mashup Markup Language (EMML) in 2006. Their objective was to enable user-oriented and user-enabled mashups by creating what was then a new type of middleware called an Enterprise Mashup Platform. Raj Krishnamurthy became the chief language designer and implementer of EMML and also led the team to create an Eclipse-based EMML IDE called Mashup Studio.[7] This work evolved into the EMML reference implementation that was donated to the Open Mashup Alliance. Raj Krishnamurthy continues to be one of the key contributors to EMML through the Open Mashup Alliance’ – (Wikipedia –Enterprise Mashup Markup Language – EMML).

‘Mashups were first used in the early 2000s to describe music tracks created by blending parts of songs from different genres – for example, taking the vocals from a rock song and laying them over a hip-hop beat’ – (IET – A sophisticated mess?). ‘Mash-up platforms comprise three elements: software components that help users source and display different types of data, like portlets, widgets or gadgets; tools that allow developers to create mash-ups for others to use; and an underlying software infrastructure to manage, secure and maintain the new data combinations’. ‘Mash-ups were harnessed by inventive Internet consumers and explorative Web developers who monkeyed around with the technology on a largely experimental basis; but businesses soon caught on to the potential of mash-ups’ practicality and ease-of-use. This led software vendors to design mash-up creation tools.’

‘Indicators agree that the potential for market growth is there, in part inspired by the ‘open ethos’ re-use/re-service approach promulgated by service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology. Research company Forrester reckons that sales of this type of software were worth a modest £106m in 2008; the figure is forecast to reach £1.14bn by 2013.’ (IET – Mashup tools: enterprise enablers for the mashed age.)

”Mash-up’ has become more commonly associated with the merging of software, in particular websites or applications built using content from more than one source to create a new service. Typical examples include Nightfeed (www.nightfeed.com), which combines social networking sites such as Facebook with Google maps to help you find the most popular nightlife in your area; Twittervision (www.twittervision.com), which displays Twitter posts on a global map in real time; and SoupSoup (www.soup-soup.net), a news mash-up that complements stories from the BBC, CNN and other sources with articles from Wikipedia and pictures from Flickr. Since you don’t need a degree in computer science to build a mash-up and the tools to do so are readily available, there are already thousands of such applications on the Web, covering everything from shopping to real estate.’ (see IET – A sophisticated mess?‘).

‘Web mash-ups hardly represent a technological revolution, but they are likely to play a big role in shaping the future of the Web. Today’s Web is all about participation and the collective experience – applications that can be easily adapted to allow users to manipulate data will be key to how it evolves. Take the Google Mobile Application for the iPhone, which uses speech recognition technology to allow you to search the Web. Suddenly you’re interacting with the Internet by talking to it, which makes a keyboard interface seem a little old-fashioned.’

”The smartphone revolution has moved the Web from our desks to our pockets,’ says Tim O’Reilly, software guru and founder of the computer book publisher O’Reilly Media. ‘Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications.’

‘The trickiest transition for any new generation of computer application is that from nascency to immaturity. For mash-up developers the potential for significant market take-up seems evident – mash-up plus-points carry much force in the context of business IT – yet even as the factors for success fall into place, the ‘tipping point’ still seems a way off. The mash-up proposition holds attractions for enterprise IT, especially the potential to enable task-specific browser-based applications (relatively) quickly and cheaply, that energise existing corporate information by combining it with external data sources and other resources online.’

The mash-ups model is also claimed to be adept at integrating data already ‘siloed’ inside an organisation, and enterprise IT strategists will like the fact that mash-ups applications are scalable. But these qualities are for nothing if no standards exist to validate them.’

‘‘Mash-ups are not, of course, completely dissociated from industry standards. They work on standard browsers and are based on open-source software elements; this may or may not be a good thing, depending on an organisation’s stance toward open-source. Some IT leaders recognise the benefits of open-source and embrace it; others think that the compatibility problems it can cause make it more trouble than it’s worth.’

‘The mash-up ethos is strongly predicated on ‘openness’, both in respect to code accessibility and toward data ownership, but even very open-minded open-sourcers may want to see standards-driven controls. The focus here centres around user demand driving better standards and this encouraging adoption.’

‘According to mash-up standards doyen Dion Hinchcliffe, founder of Enterprise 2.0 firm Hinchcliffe & Co, demand-driven interest is pressuring the standards process. ‘As business conditions increase the internal demand to leverage untapped corporate knowledge, mash-ups offer a model that aligns to the needs of the business by connecting workers to resources they need,’ he says. ‘[They] allow for the easy creation of inexpensive, ‘situational’ applications that can now fall inside resource, budget and time [targets] that were difficult to meet with older generation techniques.’ (IET – Mashup standards: crucial to enterprise acceptance)

‘Market watcher Gartner has categorised the benefits of emerging mash-up tools to corporate buyers into five elements: application flexibility; faster application delivery; development productivity; end-user empowerment; application innovation. That flexibility is perhaps best shown when a single mash-up interface is used to replace multiple different applications which would otherwise have to be used simultaneously to display the same data.’

‘Pharmaceutical company Pfizer, for instance, uses an Intranet-based business intelligence (BI) mash-up to deliver ad hoc query, forecasting, planning, and modelling to its product research executives making investment decisions.’

‘The mash-up is based on Composite Software’s Information Server platform, which takes information from factory, project and portfolio management, inventory and supply chain databases, and uses a combination of other tools, including BusinessObjects WEBi reports, Spotfire DecisionSite analystics, SharePoint Designer and ASP net pages for presentation.’

‘Mash-ups also allow Pfizer to develop new software tools which help Pfizer’s researchers share information more quickly, and let end-users configure their own mash-ups and test them out before they go into production.’ – (IET – Making mash-ups)

As governments’ release their data sets, it will become increasingly easier to create mashups from government data. ‘These include Openly Local (Replaces planningalerts.com), a free service that emails you if someone has put in a planning application to build near your house (although to be fair it launched before the government’s move). FillThatHole lets people report potholes and other road hazards across the UK, using location data from the Office for National Statistics.’ – (Techcrunch)

For more, please also read – IET – Managing mash-ups and The 10 Best Mashups on the Web

Organisations “Don’t get” social media

Social Media: Changing Business

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

POST UPDATED 09.12.11

In general most organisations still don’t understand or don’t want to understand the impact, benefits and competitive advantage that social media can, in many cases, still provide. The problem lies in the half hearted way many organisations introduce social media within the organisation. Brian Glick, in his ComputerWeekly column said that (In summary) organisations in general still thought that employees, if given the option, would spend their time on social media sites instead of working are missing the important point. Organisations could reap significant benefits and it was in the interests of organisations to improve collaboration and communication with ‘customers, suppliers and partners.’ One of the reasons for not adopting social media is that social media is at the stage where email and the Internet were 15-20 years ago. I remember that at the time many organisations used to view email/Internet access in the same way. Now, email and Internet access forms the fabric of most organisations. For those organisations that just ‘don’t get’ social media, I will provide a simple three step process to ‘get you there.’

Step One – The social media policy

This does not have to be a completely new policy; this can be an addendum to the existing computer usage or Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) of an organisation. This should include acceptable/unacceptable behaviour for employees on social media such as blogging, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter etc. The secret is to embrace social media, get your employees involved and make them your ambassadors in the new world of social media. Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO captures the essence well, “If you want people to use it, you have to tolerate them using it and not always in the way you expect.” To get you started, here are a few links:

Step two – Internal and external Social Media adoption

Harnessing the power of social media will provide you with two key benefits:

  1. Collaboration and knowledge sharing becomes easier. Organisations of all sizes have struggled for years to capture the expertise of their knowledge experts without much success. Internal Social media platforms make that process simple and employees are encouraged to create ‘expert’ content. Expertise becomes easier to access, as Aviva’s example (QUICK STATS – £350 Billion assets, £50 billion sales, 54000 staff, and currently 120 wikis with potential for 600 more) demonstrates. For example, in Aviva’s case, Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO said, “One of our people in the Melbourne office was having a complex issue. Someone in our York (England) office saw their online post. Within 24 hours they had related their experience and suggested a way of fixing it, and…problem solved. There was no way before for the two to hook up and for that information exchange to happen.”
  2. The younger generation leaving schools and universities is social media literate. They already have social media profiles on Facebook, MySpace and Bebo etc. Organisations are finding it hard to recruit and retain youngsters where social media equivalents are not available internally and where social media access generally is restrained. The primary reason is that these younger people utilise these technologies to communicate and interact with the world at large. Embracing the younger generation through social media adoption can bring benefits that may not have been anticipated. They will utilise these platforms in innovative ways, providing competitive advantage and adding to the bottom line.

Step three – Setup and monitoring Social Media

Organisations’ spend tremendous amounts of their finances on marketing and advertising but tend to spend no money on correct setup, creating the correct social media culture and actually monitoring social media. For the past month, I have been researching an organisation that thinks that it ‘gets’ social media. The way they have decided to setup their social media, I am sure, in their opinion is correct. Let me just explain how they have setup their social media. They have a blog but only their wholesalers can access it and oh, by the way, they would have to register to read the blog articles. They have setup a social media account with one of the main social media platforms. End customers are not allowed to become members of that group, as it is aimed at the wholesalers only. Customers have been wandering the web looking for information about their products but cannot easily access information about their products or have anywhere or anyone to go to for further information; even product enhancements have been discussed by customers. An independent site talks about the chemical products in their products as naturally occurring and their website fails to display that information. Ok, so why am I telling you all this and why is it important?

Let me explain. Social media is not a tool where the success can be measured in a given time frame/short term. Relationships are developed and nurtured utilising various social media platforms over both short/long term. It is a tool that allows us to interact with each other and our customers. The need is to, ‘engage and interact.’ This particular organisation has not done that. In actual fact, it has unconsciously created all sorts of barriers stopping its very customers reaching and interacting with it. I couldn’t find any evidence of anyone utilising social media to have any conversations anywhere with its customers. Social media is not being monitored and so this organisation has no way of knowing if anyone is posting any comments (positive or negative) anywhere on social media.

For example, I did come across some negative comments that could have been countered by simply informing the customer on where to find the information. Another example covered in my blog post a few weeks ago showed that if , Toyota had monitored social media, it would have become aware much earlier that its customers were unhappy and that it could impact Toyota’s reputation. Here are a few links to get you started:

More SM Tools:

Hootsuite , Tweetdeck , Yoono , Wefollow , Listorious , Twellow , Twellowhood , Klout , Visibli , Quora, Instagr.am , Pitchengine , Addictomatic , Tubemogul , Untweeps, Twitalyzer , Topsy , Ping.fm , Friendfeed , Google Alerts , Postrank , Storify , Backtype , Big-boards/ , Getclicky , Twitterfeed , Twitter Search , Onlywire , Hashtracking , Socialmention , Seesmic.com/ , Flock , Pingdom.com/ , Hubspot , Diaspora , Monitter.com/

Top Commercial Tools for large organisations (Cost more, probably not affordable by small business or for personal use):

Top 20 Social Media monitoring vendors for business

Radian 6 , Lithium , Attensity 360 , Alterian , Spiral 16 , Buzz Logic, Cymfony , Cision , Trackur

In summary:

  • Ensure that you have appropriate policies/guidelines to help employees navigate social media.
  • Adopt social media in a way that benefits your organisation and interact with a wide audience.
  • Monitor social media and use it to interact with your customers, suppliers and partners.
  • The objective internally is to create an environment of collaboration that allows the open exchange of ideas.
  • The objective externally is to create a ‘buzz’ and awareness about your product and organisation, in addition to PR.

How Toyota became the Werewolf

Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corpora...

Image via Wikipedia

Akio Toyoda to testify in Washington: maybe he’s finally waking up to the fact that he runs a global company and has to behave that way. – Tweet by Michael Schuman, Correspondent Time magazine – 18/2/10

As most of us know (If you follow movies), there is some lead time involved before ‘The man’, turns into a Werewolf (only when there is a full moon). Well, Toyota (the werewolf) had known about the complaints ranging from unintended acceleration to brake failure in 2002 (US regulators informed 2004). Even Steve Wozniak, mentioned his Prius problems and indicated that the problem was software based in an interview in early February. The transitional phase had started for Toyota to become a werewolf. All Toyota had to wait for was nightfall. The dreaded night for the werewolf came in January and by the end of that night, the werewolf had killed an estimated 19 people in the US alone, recalled 8.5 million cars, sales had fallen by 16% in January alone and an inquiry launched into Toyota Corolla’s power steering problems. The Toyota that had won the Japanese quality award for 1980 had been consumed by the powerful werewolf that was now the largest car maker in the world since 2008.

The damage had been done! The werewolf awoke the following morning and realised that it had to remedy the situation. As we know, the remedies for werewolves are painful (not mentioning the silver bullet). As Japan sped up its car recall system, the US knew it could not live with a werewolf amongst its midst and congressman Edolphus Towns, told Toyoda in a letter that American drivers were “unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it.” The latest news is that the werewolf’s representative (the boss himself) has agreed to attend the Congress hearing.

The werewolf is trying hard to fix its problems, including the infamous sticky accelerator problem – Click here – (excellent interactive graphical courtesy of the Guardian) with a brake-override system in all future models. The werewolf had hugely underestimated the problem as in the winter of 2008-09 it had reports of “stiff” pedals.

President Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota acknowledged on 17/2 for the first time that the firm had expanded too fast in its quest to increase profits and overtake General Motors as the world’s biggest carmaker, a feat it achieved two years ago, according to the Guardian website. He acknowledged in an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post recently that the company had “failed to connect the dots” between the sticky pedals in Europe, surfacing as early as December 2008, and those in the U.S. that culminated in the massive recalls. He also said, “The Company needed to improve sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations.” The werewolf believed it to be a “quality” not a “safety” issue. Steven C. McNeely. Manager, SMS , in his article, Lesson Learned from Toyota, argues that, “safety is an unspoken and unwritten quality expectation of our customers, and you cannot separate the two. You can have a quality product or service, as defined by the ISO standards, and still not have a safe product or service. Toyotas’ problem clearly accentuates this point”.

“Toyota managers did not respond to the early signals. That’s when they should have identified the root causes,” said Sharma, who teaches Toyota production methods to businesses. “If the Toyota brand no longer stands for quality, what does it stand for?” – Anand Sharma, chief executive of TBM Consulting Group, based in Durham, North Carolina, told The Associated Press

“Toyota drivers have gone from being customers of the company to being wards of the government,” says Jim Cain, senior vice president of Quell Group, a marketing-communications firm in Detroit, and a former Ford media-relations executive. ” according to Time.

“As far as we know, Toyota is still the best manufacturing company in the world when it comes to production management,” Michael A. Cusumano, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the gas pedal and floor-mat defects were design errors in supplier parts, and the faulty braking in hybrid models was caused by a software glitch. They weren’t manufacturing errors, the kinds of defects workers at plants have been trained to pick out — a piece that doesn’t fit, a crack in a part, something that diverges from the design.

“Toyota has been exemplary at surfacing problems in the factory and stopping production before a crisis was reached,” said Jeffrey Liker, professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, who has written books on the Toyota Way.

“Failure to follow all the principles of the Toyota Way led to this crisis. Now the Toyota Way is the only way out of it,” said Liker.

CIOs and IT Management can learn from the Toyota debacle. The most important question I had to ask myself when I heard of Toyota’s woes was a simple one. Do I unlearn everything about Just In Time (JIT), lean management, Total Quality Management (TQM) and ‘The Toyota Way’ and start over? I will leave that question open, for now!

The key lessons for CIOs are:

  1. Acknowledge and fix the problem with any process, system or project as soon as it is highlighted by stakeholders. Do not allow it to spiral out of control.
  2. Listen, listen, and listen again.
  3. Isolate the issue(s) and ensure that it is not a part of a much larger problem.
  4. Everybody within the company is an ambassador for the company, including the IT department. If the IT dept spot a non IT issue that affects the company, take 100% responsibility for it and get it addressed.
  5. Use social media (SM) channels such as LinkedIn, facebook and Twitter to monitor your user community by proactively listening, anticipating problems and getting involved with these communities.
  6. Do not hide/shy away from social media (SM) and use it to create competitive advantage.
  7. Brand reputation can be enhanced or irreparably damaged on SM. Be there to get your message across

Related Article on Toyota pay the price for not connecting the dots