Subba’s Serendipitous moments

July 16, 2010

It’s not what you think, but how you think that matters!

 

Clayton Christensen the celebrated Harvard Professor and the guru on innovation speaks to the HBS graduating class of 2010 on how to apply management lessons to personal lives. It is not just an inspiring read, but an instructive read for everyone.

After a preliminary introduction where he establishes with amazing conviction the 30 minute conversation that he had with Andy Grove which led to the development of Celeron, he gives 6 key lessons which should be applicable to all of us.

Create a strategy for your life:

“I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces”. In my view, the pursuit of purpose surpasses all other pursuits. I learnt this quite late in life.

Allocate your resources:

“People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to under invest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most”.

Create a culture:

Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.

Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

Avoid the “marginal costs mistake:

It’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

Remember the importance of humility:

If your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too.

Choose the right yardstick:

Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.

My own mid life realizations and some of the life lessons have been written here.

Well, I would strongly recommend that you read his entire lecture as he backs up the brilliant instructions with observations and decisions that he made in his personal life. The entire lecture can be found here.

February 10, 2010

SAP faces the moment of truth

Filed under: Business,Competition,Leadership — Subbaraman Iyer @ 10:58 am
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In a surprise move, SAP announced the resignation of Leo Apothekar as CEO of SAP and instituted a co-CEO model. In retrospect, the problems at SAP has been in the making for a number of years.

SAP’s financials fell in 2009, like many others but it was in a recovery mode. In the full fiscal year 2009, total revenue was down 8% to €10.67 billion ($15 billion) and net income was down 5% to €1.83 billion (€2.57 billion). Q4 revenue was down 9% to €3.19 billion or $4.8 billion. Net income decreased 12% to €727 million ($1.02 billion) or €0.63 per share.

Software revenue in Q4 declined 15% y-o-y to €1.12 billion but doubled from €525 million last quarter. Software and software-related service revenues were down 4% to €2.57 billion but up from €1.94 billion last quarter. For the full year, software revenues declined 28% to €2.61 billion. Software and software-related service revenues were down 3% to €8.20 billion.

In the SME segment, SAP has just  73,000 customers globally despite making multiple product offerings like Business ByDesign, SAP Business One and SAP All-in-one.  SAP defines SME as business with 100-500 employees and revenue of less than $500 million. This was a clear under-perform given that Oracle managed to penetrate this segment.

SAP failed to execute the SME strategy effectively, something that I clearly foresaw about which I commented here.

The moment of truth was not just the revenue decline, but the impact of the lack of strategy both internally and externally.

This can be attributed to SAP’s lack of commitment to the SaaS strategy despite making public announcements about its willingness to offer the SaaS model. SAP’s strategy that Business ByDesign would essentially serve as an ‘on-ramp’ to its on-premise customers rather than be a distinct separate offering is a flawed one. This created huge confusion in the minds of the customers (something I had told them in 2007). Further it seems that this confusion spread amongst the internal staff who never understood how to position the SAP’s offerings in the market place. Hence I am not surprised that 50% of the internal staff didn’t express confidence in the executive board.

SAP’s decision to increase maintenance fees in the midst of the economic slowdown didn’t win any friends amongst the customers. It has shaken customer confidence about SAP’s customer orientation.

Is the co-CEO model the solution to the leadership challenge amidst such strategic and operational challenges? I am not so sure. SAP has had several leadership challenges in recent times as listed here.

Hasso Plattner was his usual candid self when he said “ But to be profitable, we will have to be a happy company and our customers have to be happy as well”. .

So expect Hasso Plattner to be not just visible but with his hands firmly on the wheel.

June 4, 2007

Managing change

Filed under: Business,Innovation,Leadership,Learning — Subbaraman Iyer @ 10:06 pm
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Business leaders, change agents, consultants who are involved in creating and managing change in organizations are well aware of the enormity of the challenges they face in carrying out the task. Most have felt at some point or the other some inadequacies in their abilities to drive change successfully. An often ignored aspect is the issue of the emotional journey that people have to undertake in abandoning their secure present to an uncertain future. And such journeys need not just the thought but the emotion as well.

John Kotter puts it succinctly:

“Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings. This is true even for organizations that are focused on analysis and measurement, even among people who think of themselves as smart in a MBA sense. In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.”

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