Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Robbie BachRobbie Bach, recently retired President of Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division, visited my Business Capstone class at Santa Clara University on February 11, 2011. Robbie’s experience spans an array of amazing accomplishments including his role as CMO of MS Office and leading the effort to bring Windows Mobile 7 to market this past Fall.

One of the most interesting discussions was related to the introduction of the Xbox. Robbie was tapped to bring Microsoft’s first gaming console to market at a time when Sony and Nintendo dominated that space. This may be hard to remember now that Microsoft is a dominant player with approximately 25% marketshare. Having no formal experience in console gaming, Microsoft recognized the prospective power of this space with respect to fulfilling the vision of “the connected home.” Microsoft knew they needed a seat at the table.

Robbie focused on two key principles for ensuring he had the right organization in place to enable innovation and commercialization of this new product. What struck me the most was his emphasis that “a more disciplined process might have killed the project” and so he really had to strike a balance that ensured they could think like entrepreneurs, while executing manufacturing and distribution on a global scale. The following are the principles he outlined in the discussion:

Separation from the core
Robbie and his leadership team made it clear that they would not join the effort to introduce the Xbox unless they had independence from corporate headquarters. They could not operate effectively under its structure and needed the flexibility to organize the way a game manufacturer operates, rather than the way a computer software company such as Microsoft historicaly operates.

Measuring the market and then setting internal goals
The first order of business for Robbie and his staff was to run game theory simulations to understand how the industry players might react when Microsoft made its debut. By knowing the potential outcomes, he was able tailor his go-to-market strategy. This effort followed with what he called the “3/30/300 documents.” First, he had a 3 page document outline the core principles of the initiative. Second, he had a 30 page document produced that outlined the execution strategy. Finally, the team produced a 300 page document that was the detailed specification for the Xbox console.

The rest is history. Robbie successfully introduced the Xbox in only 18 months from the time he received the assignment.  As a result, he was able to gain 25% market share and build the platform for subsequent console releases.


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Photo courtesy of GigaOM

Debra Chrapaty, SVP and GM of the Cisco Collaboration Software Group stated, “You must have the people, process, and technology in place to enable effective collaboration.” She intentionally held technology in third place because you cannot successfully utilize innovative technologies without the right people and processes in place. Her presentation was exceptionally well suited as an overarching theme for the Net:Work 2010 Conference hosted by GigaOM on December 9th. The following are three of the major themes I heard during the event.

Executive decision making and compensation models will change to encourage collaboration. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, is shaking up both his compensation structure and executive planning meetings to improve collaboration within the company. He stated that any employee can earn the same salary as an SVP within his organization moving forward. Compensation will adjust based on performance and he believe some of the best thinking in his company stems from those outside his leadership structure. Most interesting was his recent change to executive offsite planning meetings. He said the executive staff appeared as if they were the “Illuminate” going off to perform some rituals when an executive offsite meeting occurred behind closed doors. Now, he streams his entire offsite meetings live and provides a recorded version of it for all individuals to learn from and collaborate on during the year. His planning sessions are now “live” throughout the year.

Understanding identity and relationships is rudimentary at best with current tools. Jeff Bonforte, CEO of Xobni, discussed the point that explicit data, the type we find on a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page tells us very little useful information about a person. He went on to state, “Implicit data will redefine identity and relationships.” Xobni acquires this information by performing statistical analysis on the messages in a person’s inbox. Most important about the market position his young company is taking is that there will be a revolution in productivity tools when this much greater level of insight is revealed to everyone.

Segmentation matters in the enterprise. Segmenting user behavior based on demographic, ethnographic, and psychographic research isn’t just for establishing strategies to win in the consumer marketplace. A few interesting facts discussed at the conference include the point that Gen Xers are the most likely generation to want to start their own business and that only 33% of North Americans embrace use of video in collaboration tools versus Europe at 66%. These differences in behavior matter and they must be understood. Based on the statements above, I expect very simple and inexpensive collaboration tools to dominate amongst Gen Xers starting their business; whereas, more sophisticated collaboration tools with the use of video to perform better in Europe as a whole.

In wrapping up my summary of the experience, my favorite quote of the conference was that, “we are in the business of connecting people to people, not people to data.”

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SisyphusIt’s 11:14 PM and I’m far into a dense vendor proposal for a corporate software solution.  My Xobni account indicates I’ve sent and received 321 emails to various stakeholders and vendors in relation to this proposed software purchase. Thanks to Cloud Computing, future IT leaders will never know of the Sisyphean task at hand when dealing with in-house IT implementations.

Forrester recently reported that 9% of IT buyers will purchase a cloud-based solution in 2010. Although that percentage might seem insignificant, I look forward to looking back someday and having a difficult time believing the lengthy infrastructure assessments and painful procurement processes I had to go through.

Here is some of the impact I expect to see as software continues to move online:

  • Try before you buy – Remember back to 2001 when the supply chain software company i2 was blamed for causing Nike to miss its revenue forecast? Although risk cannot be eliminated, using SaaS solutions often enables you to try many competing services for free, in your live work environment, before seriously committing.
  • Buy now – Limited infrastructure needs often means lower prices and simpler approval processes. Swiping a credit card online will help us distance ourselves from lengthy software evaluations that require executive approval before buying.
  • Use or cancel – Spreading SaaS services throughout your organization can be fast and simple. In fact, it might be too easy. Luckily, cancelling can be just as easy. Make sure you chose SaaS vendors with functionality and friendly policies for obtaining your data.

It’s now 11:32 PM, and more emails have arrived that require urgent attention.  The storm can’t arrive too soon.

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