5 Questions to Ask About Your New Year Reboot

For some organizations, December/January is that time of the year where organizations reflect on what happened during the prior year and what goals need to be accomplished for the current year. This reflection revolves around the organization’s people, processes and technologies. It also involves creating strategies, understanding the effects of internal and external politics, competing innovatively, transforming culture and polishing execution. In order to thoroughly learn and objectively plan, the right questions need to be asked. These questions open the organization to have a better understanding of what has happened and helps in determining what needs to happen. By no means, these are the only questions to be asked but rather should be used as a starting point to go beyond a mere surface-level understanding of issues. So, let’s ask them:

Today

Tomorrow

Who develops the strategy?Who should develop the strategy?
What internal and external politics affected your organization?What internal and external politics should not affect your organization?
Where did the inspiration for innovation came from?Where inspiration of innovation should come from?
When culture trumped strategy?When should culture trump strategy?
Why execution was flawed?Why execution would continue to be flawed in the future?

When you are asking the above questions, keep in mind that organizational silos have to be broken down to create a well-oiled machine where all gears interconnect with each other and understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. An organization that can consistently set goals, track them and measure them against expectations, have better data to make informed decisions.

In conclusion, take this time to understand the multidimensionality of your organization. New Years is about reboot; reboot your organization to become a disruptive force; reboot so that your employees, partners, customers, and stakeholders become your megaphone; reboot your business processes to bring products and services quickly to the market; reboot to create a learning organization; reboot to make data open your eyes to new possibilities and reboot to create an organization that positively serves people beyond perceived organizational boundaries.

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New Year Reboot

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Does IT Matter for Internet and Internet Technologies?

In his article, Nick Carr argues that in the current business environment Information Technology (IT) does not provide any strategic advantage but it is merely an operational necessity. He equates IT to a commodity much like electricity and mainly talks about IT infrastructure becoming a commodity. Let’s explore this in the context of the Internet and Internet technologies:

The Internet:

The Internet is a network of networks that connects varied computers via switches to allow transmission of data across multiple networks using Internet protocols. Some of the popular uses of the Internet include email, instant messaging, browsing the World Wide Web (WWW) to name a few. In today’s society, the Internet has become an important tool for individuals and organizations to conduct their business. It seems like the use of the Internet has become so ubiquitous that individuals and organizations don’t even think about it and assume it to be always available but does that mean the Internet has become a commodity. In this context, I would agree with Nick that the Internet has now become very similar to a commodity since we are all accessing the same Internet despite the mediums by which we access it.

Internet Technologies:

Internet technologies include browsers and search engines that help us navigate the WWW of the Internet. From Nick Carr’s perspective, these Internet Technologies are commodities and do not provide any strategic value. I disagree with this claim and here is why:

  1. Browsers: Currently browsers are used to browse the WWW and used internally by organizations to access their corporate systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relation Management (CRM) systems via a web interface. Thus, the security and privacy capabilities of these browsers become paramount in safeguarding the organizations against malicious attacks. While from the surface it may seem that these browser issues are operational in nature but from a closer inspection we can understand their strategic importance. For example, if an organization chooses one browser over another browser that has less security then the organization becomes vulnerable to exploits of that browser. These exploits can entail simple hacking attacks on the siphoning of organizational data. So, the selection of a browser is not just an operational activity but I believe it to be a strategic necessity.
  1. Search: A McKinsey report, The Impact of Internet technologies: Search, indicated that web search provides value that includes the creation of new business models. An example of this would be price comparisons where users can essentially compare prices of what they are buying (e.g., airline tickets, hotel rooms, etc.) from various vendors on one website. This price comparison is not only useful for users but for corporations, this could also be used to determine if they are competitively priced. Since making your organization competitive is also a strategic consideration thus search capabilities are important for the organization’s future.

In conclusion, the oversimplification and lack of understanding of how the nuances of technology can affect organizations strategically are not only unsettling but also ill-informed. IT is not just one thing and by saying it is and cherry-picking the data to show this can lead to unintentional consequences.

References:

  1. http://hbr.org/2003/05/it-doesnt-matter/ar/1
  2. http://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/high%20tech/pdfs/impact_of_internet_technologies_search_final2.ashx
  3. http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/25/5431382/the-internet-is-fucked

Future Considerations for Kodak

Recently, I was asked to perform an organizational analysis of Eastman Kodak based on an article published in The Economist titled, “The last Kodak moment?”.  Here are my views if I was a new CEO sending a memo to the Board of Directors:

Eastman Kodak has been around for more than 132 years. In these years Kodak has seen the best of times and the worst of times. In the best of times, we were the envy of our competitors and as recently as 1996, we had revenues reaching $16 billion but now we have reported a net loss of $222 million. Some of the issues that I decipher by going over company history are the failures to adapt to new markets and not listening to our customers. While there are certain things beyond our control but there are other things that we can control. Why is that the builder of the digital camera in 1975, we are now at the bottom.

In my current analysis, I have observed that we are structured by our product line. This has worked in the past but we cannot sustain this organizational structure if we have to move forward. It is apparent that the power within the organization resides with the product owners and not the customers. Since we held a majority of the market in the past and were able to keep our competitors at bay, over time we have developed a culture of thinking that the customer will come to us and we do not have to change. Additionally, although we may have the best technology in the past and a highly lucrative intellectual property (IP) portfolio, this is not enough to make Kodak go into the black. In light of all of this I am recommending the following:

Firstly, I recommend changing the structural design of our organization by turning it into a Front/Back organization. The reason for this would be so that our marketing and sales team can directly interface with the clients, work with them to figure out what issues they would like to solve and then develop solutions around them. The customer is king and we have to respect that. Additionally, I would like to open offices in new markets so that we do not surround ourselves with “yes” men only here in Rochester, NY. The new offices would be in India and China where not only that we will have marketing and sales offices but also research and development (R&D) offices.

Secondly, as I read Larry Matteson’s report from 1979, I am surprised that we did not pay attention to the people who could help us divert the current mess that we are in. This will have to change, the feedback and reports that are being generated by our executives who are closer to the action should be held at a greater value. I am recommending an office within Kodak whose purpose solely would be to assess internal and external threats to our corporation and make recommendations. This office will report directly to me so we can erase any management or bureaucratic barriers.

Thirdly, as the strategic design changes, we will be changing the culture of the organization as well by institutionalizing Customer Satisfaction Assessment Reports (CSAR) in which we will solicit feedback from internal and external customers and ask them how they see we can improve the services that we provide. As you are well aware that most of the innovation comes from the people who are at the front lines as well as the customers. Doing this will not only give us a way to improve our current services and products but also open potential markets that we may not be aware of. The flow of this captured information is very important and thus the new office that I mentioned above would also house these suggestions and make actionable recommendations which I will review personally. In this way, I am creating an open door for anyone who has an idea to talk to this team and thus making all levels of the organization realize that we are in this together.

Lastly, I would recommend that the current IP that we have should not be merely sold off so that we can stay afloat. I ask you for how long can we stay afloat by merely selling our IP and how long can we survive. In this regard, I would recommend the beginning of a strong R&D arm which will not only continue to develop new IPs but also help us in developing new product features. This R&D arm will have several offices in several countries so that we are not limited by what we only know here in the USA but we can leverage globalization in a new way and all together for the future of the company.

We are not Fujifilm. We are better!

I look forward to working with you and thank you for your time.

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