Should Technology Companies Be Held To A Higher Standard?

On July 29, 2020, the United States Congress’ House Committee on Judiciary will conduct a hearing titled β€œOnline Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google” under the broader Antitrust Investigation of the Rise and Use of Market Power Online and the Adequacy of Existing Antitrust Laws and Current Enforcement Levels. In this virtual hearing, Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are expected to answer questions raised by the House Committee’s Democractic and Republican members. In addition to asking questions, it is expected that House Committee members will discuss Freedom of Speech, censorship, breaking large technology companies along with the usual jabs at each other.

In my previous posts, What Questions Do You Have For Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook? and What Questions Do You Have For Sundar Pichai of Google?, I provided a list of possible questions that could be asked so that the public is aware of what is going on. In this post, I am going to provide some questions that should be asked from these technology titans as well.

Some Questions

  1. How many companies has your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) acquired that were in direct competition with your company?
  2. What did your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) do with the existing products, processes, people, services and technologies of the companies that you acquired?
  3. Can your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) provide a list of companies that still exist under your umbrella after acquisition?
  4. What procedures do you have in place to strike a balance between anti-poaching and people’s right to apply to any job that they want?
  5. What is your company’s (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) business relationships with each other?
  6. What user information do your companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) share with federal, state and local governments?
  7. What antitrust laws should be in the books for your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google)?
  8. As companies move into your cloud enviroments, what specific steps is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) taking to safeguard against using your client’s cloud data for your own competitive advantage?
  9. What is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) doing to safeguard against internal and external data breaches for the purpose of corporate espionage?
  10. As Artificial Intelligence (AI), takes over almost every industry, what steps is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) taking to not be a monoply in this area?
  11. Would your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) take an oath aganist misuse of data?

So, what questions do you have for Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google?

Here are some of my comments as the hearing continues:

Who Decides What Is Ethical?

In the video below on CxO Talk, I asked Rob Chesnut, Former Chief Ethics Officer of AirBnB, the framework needed for ethical behavior inside organizations.

In my view, ‘who’ decides ‘what’ is ethical behavior matters here. This goes back to the moral compass of the leaders who lead by example and not just by cheap talk. Whenever there are doubts about ethical behaviors inside organizations, we should be transparent about it and ask:

  1. How is ethical behavior systemized in terms of policies, procedures and incentives in your organization?
  2. Who manages the ethical standards of your organization? Hint: It is not one person.
  3. Why ethical behaviour is important for your organization and those you interact with?

Should The Chief Information Officer (CIO) Be Involved in Strategic Planning Activities?

In the video below on CxO Talk, I asked David Cote, Former Chairman and CEO of Honeywell, the importance of having your organization’s technology leadership involved in organizational strategic planning activities.

In my view, if your organization that does not use Information Technology (IT) as a competitive advantage then it is bound to loose in the long-term. To avoid this, your organization should not merely be users of IT but active participants always thinking, inquiring and experimenting with what is possible and beyond.

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Can The IT Team Do Digital Transformation?

Today’s competitive business landscape requires that you have a solid understanding of what technology is doing and what it can do for your organization. This understanding of technology can make the difference between surviving and thriving. Organizations that merely want to survive will eventually be replaced. Organizations that want to thrive will need to do Digital Transformation. But, if someone convinced you that Digital Transformation is only about technology then you will struggle with it as stated in Business Agility and Digital Transformation, 5 Questions to Ask About Your Digital Transformation, and 5 Myths About Digital Transformation.

Digital Transformation requires the entire organization to have a culture that motivates and incentivizes to improve things. Since most functional departments operate in silos, motivations and incentives are limited to functional departments and not to the entire organization. What this means is that even before you begin your Digital Transformation journies, you should have a good understanding of what roadblocks these silos create and how you can move beyond them. While there are many ways to assess your organization’s readiness, today I am going to use the SWOT Analysis combined with SPICE to identify gaps and use it as a communications tool to address those gaps.

What is the SWOT Analysis?

The SWOT Analysis is a way for organizations to understand their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats when it comes to operations and future planning. Strengths and Weaknesses look at the organization internally for self-assessment while the Opportunities and Threats look outside the organization.

What is the SPICE Framework?

SPICE is a way for organizations to understand its Strategy, Politics, Innovation, Culture, and Execution of today and tomorrow. SPICE looks at the Who, What, Where, When, Why for People, Processes, Products, Services, and Technologies.

Combining SPICE and SWOT

By combining SPICE and SWOT, we can get a deeper understanding of what is needed at organizations to move the needle. We can this SPICE-SWOT. Here’s how it works and specifically what questions you can ask:

Strategy

Organizations develop strategies for short-term and long-term. The strategy development process can be either exclusive or inclusive. In most organizations, we have an exclusive strategy development process that involves a few key executives such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and the Chief Operations Officer (COO). In some organizations, an inclusive strategy development process will involve executives, middle management, and front-line employees. Another way of developing an organization’s strategy is by outsourcing it to outside consulting firms. Each of the strategy development processes has its pros and cons.

Ideally, your organization’s strategy development process should have manual and digital feedbacks loops going from the front-line employees all the way to the executives and must include Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Chief Human Resources Manager (CHRM), Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Data Officer (CDO). If your organization is going to use a consulting firm then the consulting firm must:

  • Take feedback from all stakeholders including customers, partners, and vendors
  • Look at industry trends and cross-industry pollination opportunities
  • Not develop pie-in-the-sky ideas that are not implementable
  • Not merely be a mouthpiece for the CEO or the Board of Directors

Your organization’s strategy should look at how your organization can grow and how organizational operations can be improved. With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions:

  • Strategic Strengths
    • Who is able to develop a strategy and execute it?
    • What products and/or services provide you the tools to create effective strategy?
    • Where do your products and/or services specifically help in reaching strategic goals?
    • When conditions change, how quickly can your strategy adapt?
    • Why no one can match your strategy and strategy development processes?
  • Strategic Weaknesses
    • Who is always slacking on executing your strategy?
    • What products and/services do not result in effective strategy?
    • Where do your products and/or services specifically harm in reaching strategic goals?
    • When conditions change, how often do you ignore them?
    • Why others can match your strategy and strategy development processes?
  • Strategic Opportunities
    • Who can you partner with that understands and helps your strategy?
    • What products and/or services you forsee that can help create effective strategy?
    • Where do your products and/or services can benefit other organization’s in their strategy?
    • When conditions change, who have you partnered up that can help you navigate them?
    • Why no one can match your partner’s strategy and strategy development processes?
  • Strategic Threats
    • Who have you partnered up with that does not care about your strategy?
    • What products and/or services from your partners can harm your strategy?
    • Where do your products and/or services can hamper another organization’s strategy?
    • When conditions change, who have you partnered up that are oblivious to it?
    • Why anyone can match your partner’s strategy and strategy develop processes?

Politics

Wherever there are humans, there is politics. Sometimes this politics is visible and sometimes it is hidden but it is still there. In organizations, politics plays a key role in determining who gets promoted, what happens in governance boards, what vendors should be trusted, what kind of assistance should be provided, whose ideas are listened to, and who gets to give requirements to create something new for the organization.

Ideally, your organization’s politics should be addressed head-on by creating an open-door policy, ability to submit ideas/feedback/concerns anonymously both manually and digitally, and training for employees to understand how their own biases can affect the organization at various levels. Politics does not have to be a dirty work in your organization. With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions:

  • Political Strengths
    • Who are the go-to people at front-line, middle management and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services came about due to political influence and proved to be a strength?
    • Where did political influence change the culture for the better?
    • When does your internal politics keeps you focused on the future?
    • Why your orgnizational politics is a positive thing for the organization?
  • Political Weaknesses
    • Who are the people that play bad politics at front-line, middle management and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services came about due to political influence and proved to be a weakness?
    • Where did political influence change the culture for the worse?
    • When does you internal politics distracts from what you can achieve in the future?
    • Why your orgnizational politics is a negative thing for the organization?
  • Political Opportunities
    • Who are your go-to partners that are influencing various industries which will provide opportunities for you?
    • What products and/or services that can come about due to political influence?
    • Where can you use your political influence to make your customers, partners, vendors go a certain direction?
    • When does you competitor’s political influence threaten their own existence?
    • Why your political influence matters to others?
  • Political Threats
    • Who you did not partner up with who politcal influence
    • What products and/or services might never be developed due to political influence?
    • Where can your competitors’ use of political influence make your customers, partners, vendors go a certain direction?
    • When does your competitor’s political influence threaten your existence?
    • Why you have no political influence?

Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of your organization. It energizes or demoralizes your organization. It can positively affect your organization or it can make it hollow. There are many levels of innovation that come from front-line employees (e.g., doing some tasks more efficiently), middle-management (e.g., becoming curators of innovative ideas and creating synergies) to executive management (e.g., ability to extrapolate and connect the dots at the highest levels). Innovation does not have to be disruptive, it can be incremental but it needs to happen and your organization should have a mindset to think about constantly. With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions:

  • Innovation Strengths
    • Who in your organization is the most innovative at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services do you provide that no one can match?
    • Where does innovation take place in your organization?
    • When you have problems with products and/or services, how quickly do you fix them?
    • Why do you think you can maintain a competitive advantage?
  • Innovation Weaknesses
    • Who in your organization is the least innovative at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services do you provide that everyone can as well?
    • Where does innovation create a bottleneck in your organization?
    • When you have problems with products and/or services, how slowly do you fix them?
    • Why do you think you will lose a competitive advantage?
  • Innovation Opportunities
    • Who can you partner with inside and/or outside your industry to be innovative?
    • What products and/or services can benefit your organization in the future?
    • Where are the next products and/or services coming from that you can take advantage of?
    • When do you think it would the right time to launch new products and/or services?
    • Why do you think you are better positioned to take advantage of new products and/or services?
  • Innovation Threats
    • Who might have been a good partner but now it is too late?
    • What products and/or services can harm your organization in the future?
    • Where are the next products and/or services coming from that might leave you behind?
    • When was the right time to launch new products and/or services?
    • Why do you think your competitor is better positioned to take advantage of new products and/or services?

Culture

Your culture determines your future. With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions:

  • Cultural Strengths
    • Who in your organization represents what your organization stands for at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services that you provide to others that you use yourself?
    • Where does your culture compliment your business objectives?
    • When someone portrays complacent culture, how quickly do you fix it?
    • Why is your culture better?
  • Cultural Weaknesses
    • Who in your organization takes your culture for granted at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels?
    • What products and/or services that you provide to others but never use yourself?
    • Where is your culture an obstacle to your business objectives?
    • When someone portrays great initiative, how often do you ignore it?
    • Why is your culture worse?
  • Cultural Opportunities
    • Who can you partner with that represents your cultural values?
    • What products and/or services that you provide can enhance another organization’s culture?
    • Where can your culture open up partnerships that might not seem obvious?
    • When can your cultural values provide societal benefits?
    • Why your culture is better in bringing societal change?
  • Cultural Threats
    • Who should your organization avoid partnering up that eats away at your culture?
    • What products and/or services can make your culture useless?
    • Where can your culture destroy potential long-term partnerships?
    • When can your cultural values negatively affect society?
    • Why a competitors’ culture might win over yours?

Execution

The ability to bring together all the capabilities of your organization to achieve business objectives is execution. Execution is hard since it requires people, products, processes, services and technologies have to be in-sync. Execution creates rythem in the organization and eventually momentum. But we always have to take time to reassess this momentum and see of the orginial underlying assumptions and conditions for execution have changed. Even today there is a big gap between what the organization whats strategically and what it is able to achieve operationally. With this in mind, let’s ask the following questions:

  • Execution Strengths
    • Who is incentivized at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels to produce a positive return-on-investment?
    • What products and/or services help you execute your business objectives?
    • Where is the sweet spot when business objectives meet execution?
    • When is your execution is effective and efficient?
    • Why no one can copy your execution?
  • Execution Weaknesses
    • Who is disincentivized at the front-line, middle management, and executive levels to produce a positive return-on-investment?
    • What products and/or services create obastacles in executing your business objectives?
    • Where do your business objectives and execution have gaps?
    • When is your execution incompetent and wasteful?
    • Why your execution can be easily copied?
  • Execution Opportunities
    • Who is incentivized at your partners to help you executive positively?
    • What products and/or services you foresee that can increase your execution speed?
    • Where can your products and/or service increase your customer’s execution speed?
    • When can your execution speed provide benefit to your partners?
    • Why your execution speed creates opportunity beyond your industry?
  • Execution Threats
    • What partners can derail your execution speed and accuracy?
    • What products and/or services you forsee that can decrease your execution speed?
    • Where do your products and/or services decrease your customer’s execution speed?
    • When can your execution speed harm your partners?
    • Why your execution speed and accuracy implode your industry?

Phew! Now that we have asked our 100 questions. Let’s get back to the question, Can the Information Technology (IT) Team do Digital Transformation. If it is not evident by now, the IT team is just one part of the entire organization. In order to do Digital Transformation, you need to make changes at all levels of the organizations. These changes are not the responsibility of the IT team only but in fact these changes occur by collaboration of IT with Accounting, Administration, Business Development, Customer Service, Finance, Human Resources, Management, Manufacturing, Marketing, Operations, Production, Research and Development, Sales and others.

Use the SPICE-SWOT to identify gaps and as a communications tool to address those gaps. For Digital Transformation, do SPICE-SWOT two times:

  1. IT team should self-assess their current capabilities to do Digital Transformation
  2. Non-IT teams should self-assess their own readiness to contribute to Digital Transformation

5 Questions To Ask About Cloud

Gartner describes Cloud (Computing) as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies.” While the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), defines Cloud Computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

In layman terms, Cloud (computing) is a way for people to use hardware, software, and data through the Internet.

Basically, what this means is that instead of using their own devices (e.g., computers, mobile devices, etc.), we use our own device to access a cloud provider’s services. Some examples of cloud computing services used by consumers include Gmail, Facebook, and Amazon, etc. For organizations, ‘going to the Cloud’ can mean different things depending upon the business models and the main objectives to be achieved.

Within an organization, the Information Technology (IT) is responsible for all technology-related hardware, software, data, services, and security across all departments (e.g., accounting, administration, business development, customer service, finance, human resources, management, manufacturing, marketing, operations, production, R&D, sales, etc.) This is a huge undertaking especially when we consider that different departments within an organization can have different needs and those needs change can change rapidly based on consumer behaviors, market conditions, regulatory requirements, and other changes. This implies that rapid changes require organizations to move fast and adapt. This is where the IT department can help or become an obstacle.

The IT department responds to changing organizational needs by gathering relevant requirements from other departments to develop IT systems. These IT systems can be custom-built or bought from technology vendors or a combination. The hosting, development, maintenance, and update of these IT systems typically become the responsibility of the IT department. The speed at which these IT systems are deployed and respond can have a direct effect on the organization. For example, an IT system that is only capable of handling 2000 simultaneous users will crash if 30,000 simultaneous users accessed it. What to do? This is one example among many where Cloud Computing shines.

Generally speaking, cloud services provided by cloud service providers can be stacked into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Additionally, Cloud can be private – where it is hosted on an organization’s data center, public – where it is hosted on a cloud vendor’s data center or hybrid.

To begin your Cloud journey, here are some questions to ask:

 

Today Tomorrow
Who is going to use Cloud services? Who should be using Cloud services?
What organizational departments provide the Cloud requirements? What organizational departments should provide the Cloud requirements?
Where is the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud? Where should be the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud?
When are organizational weaknesses identified? When should organizational weaknesses be identified?
Why is the Cloud for you? Why should the Cloud be for you?

If the organization is going to the Cloud to provide software (cloud) services to consumers then some of the things they have to figure out how to make them easy to use and always available. If the organization is going to the Cloud to improve IT operations then they have to identify efficiencies, be specific in terms of time and costs, figure out vendor lockdowns, and data hosting considerations. Sometimes organizations want to tackle both the internal improvements and consumer-focused services which can add more complexity to what going to the Cloud could mean for them. In certain respects, Cloud computing is about being efficient but it is more about being flexible enough to respond to changes quickly.

To be clear, going to the Cloud is not for every organization but if proper due diligence is done then it is beneficial for most organizations.