Thursday, February 28, 2008

Strategic Assessments: Step 1 to Building the Tangible Vision

Step1: Determine Your Ground Level

Phase 1: Strategic Positions
  • Know what is your position and the position of the opposition

Phase 2. Strategic Power
  • Know who possesses the strategic power.

Phase 3. Weakness and Strengths
  • Know who has what weaknesses and what strengths.


By knowing their strategic position and power, they can determine their weaknesses and strengths. Understanding the tangibility of each phase before proceeding the next phase is the key.

More on this topic later.

fyi- Collaboration360 Consultants are planning to publish a book on "Strategic Assessments" via the Sun Zi's strategy principles. We have not decided on the timeline yet.

Copyright: 2008 © Collaboration360 Consultants
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Lesson on Strategy: The Importance of Selecting the Right Target

Many companies and sport teams fail in their ventures due to incorrect strategic assessments and a poorly written big picture.

When one understands the Compass of their Tangible Vision, he/she focuses on implementing strong strategic moves, while avoiding weak moves.

Does your strategic process enables your team to understand your strengths and weakness while minding the bigger picture?


February 24, 2008
Digital Domain
Maybe Microsoft Should Stalk Different Prey

OVER the years, Microsoft has pummeled countless rivals, including the superheavyweight I.B.M. But it has never faced a smaller foe as formidable as Google. The tale of the tape gives Microsoft a $100 billion advantage in market capitalization, but it counts for little: Google appears to be its superior in strength, speed, smarts.

Having exhausted its best ideas on how to deal with Google, Microsoft is now working its way down the list to dubious ones like pursuing a hostile bid for Yahoo. Michael A. Cusumano, who has written several books about the software industry and about Microsoft, is not impressed with Microsoft’s rationale for its Yahoo offer. He said the bid seemed to be a pursuit of an old-style Internet asset, in decline, and at a premium.

Determined to match Google in search and online advertising, Microsoft has managed to overlook a plain-vanilla strategy, the oldest one in the book: build on its own strengths. What it does best is to sell software to corporations, for all sorts of applications, visible and not so visible, at a handsome profit.

If Microsoft thinks this is the right time to try a major acquisition on a scale it has never tried before, it should not pursue Yahoo. Rather, it should acquire another major player in business software, merging Microsoft’s strength with that of another. This is more likely to produce a happier outcome than yoking two ailing businesses, Yahoo’s and its own online offerings, and hoping for a miracle.

For an illustration of how Microsoft could select targets more judiciously, Mr. Cusumano, who is a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed to the Oracle Corporation’s strategic acquisitions and its prudent use of capital to roll up firms with similar products and customers to its own. With impressive regularity 13 strategic acquisitions in 2005, another 13 in 2006 and 11 in 2007 Oracle has picked up key products and customers while avoiding an oops slip, venturing too far away from its core business, or paying too much. At no point along the way has it acted in a fit of desperation.

Last month, Oracle pulled in another major prize, BEA Systems, a leading software company, for about $8.5 billion. You’ve probably never heard of BEA: it’s doubly obscure, producing the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that large companies use to build behind-the-scenes software systems for their entire business, or enterprise software. Both Oracle and BEA are based in Silicon Valley, but their side of the street is not lit by klieg lights and does not get the same attention as the Googles and Yahoos.

And, to be honest, it’s not much fun hanging out on the enterprise side of the software business. BEA says its software helps organizations ensure that business processes are optimally defined, managed, executed and monitored. Unless you’re playing Business Jargon Bingo, it’s hard to sit still and remain attentive. You have to admire Oracle’s ability to remain focused on the business that serves business and to not be distracted by the buzz of the Web crowd gathered across the street.

Microsoft does business software well. Approximately half its revenue comes from business customers for its e-mail infrastructure, database systems, developer tools, Office productivity applications and other mainstays. It has also assembled, through acquisitions, a fledgling line of enterprise software that it calls Microsoft Dynamics. Microsoft would like Dynamics to be viewed as competing head to head with the No. 2 name in enterprise software, Oracle, or the No. 1, SAP of Germany. For the moment, however, Microsoft Dynamics’ parity with those big names is nothing more than wishful aspiration.

Professor Cusumano has a suggestion: Rather than acquire Yahoo, Microsoft should pursue SAP.

It’s not an outlandish idea. The two companies held merger talks in late 2003, and perhaps since then, too. Microsoft is in an enviable position: it is a nearly universal presence in corporate data centers, and large enterprise customers are arguably the best customers a software company can have. Clients pay very dear prices for the complex, semicustomized software that runs their business. And once they’ve got their systems running a process that can take years to complete they aren’t inclined to change vendors lightly.

A few dozen well-paying Fortune 500 customers may actually be more valuable than tens of millions of Web e-mail customers` who pay nothing for the service and whose attention is not highly valued by online advertisers.

Today, SAP’s market capitalization is about $59 billion, and a sizable premium to get a deal done would send its price well north of that. Microsoft cannot put both SAP and Yahoo in its shopping cart, deals that together might run well over $120 billion. Microsoft must pick one or the other.

Suppose that Lawrence J. Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle, were the head of Microsoft and was doing the shopping. Which deal would he choose? Past experience suggests that it would not be Yahoo. That acquisition would bring little but duplication headaches and no large enterprise customers.

It’s amusing to note that the most Larry-like choice, Microsoft’s acquiring of SAP and leaving it alone as an autonomous division to avoid a cross-cultural integration fiasco, is the course that would be most discomfiting to Oracle. Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics, an information technology research firm, in Irvine, Calif., said that a Microsoft-SAP combination would be Oracle’s worst nightmare.

Google would not be happy with a conjoined Microsoft and SAP, either. It has made a pro forma expression of its own opposition to a Microsoft-Yahoo merger, but we can speculate that it may be cheering that deal on. Working in Google’s favor are the hostile nature of Microsoft’s bid, the colossal potential for integration problems, and organizational paralysis in, and exodus of talent from, Yahoo.

But were Microsoft to turn and head in SAP’s direction, Google would have reason for concern. Whatever strengthens Microsoft is bound to influence, later if not sooner, its continuing competition with Google. For its own part, Google is keen to expand its foothold inside large companies. Last year, it acquired Postini, whose software filters corporate e-mail. Google has not done so well with corporate customers on its own, however. Google Apps has conspicuously failed to win adoption quickly.

If Microsoft is to rededicate its attention to its most valuable assets, business customers, a prerequisite is dropping its ill-advised bid for Yahoo. And to find the best acquisition strategy, ask, What would Larry do?

If Microsoft tries to fight Google with wobbly legs, scared witless, it will lose.

/// Microsoft made the assessment to takeover Y! Whether it is right or wrong, Microsoft will live with their decision. If you had the resources of Microsoft, would you make the same move? ///

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail:


Seen small to medium-sized companies making incorrect strategic moves, that places them in a position of chasing the competition.

With our Compass AE process, your company is strategically positioned ahead of the competition.

If you are interested in learning more, please email us at contactus [aa_tt] collaboration360 [d_ott]com

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Compass AE: A Solution for Telecommuting

Many people are currently living in the suburbs. traveling many miles to get to work. The amount of time it takes to travel from home to the office (and vice-versa) has become so unproductive to the company and their family. That the negative effects have started to affect the worker in many ways.

People asked me, "Is there a better way to use their time?"

Instead of wasting their time traveling from place to place, a project team trained under Compass AE, can spend their time productively, working on their projects at home or anywhere.

With our Compass AE process, the team collaborates without borders. In other words, they can collaborate anywhere regardless of the distance, the technology and the project culture.

If you are interested in learning more, please email us at contactus [aa_tt] collaboration360 [d_ott]com


Sunday, February 3, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
Riding That Train/Meet the people who seem to travel as many hours as they work on a long commute to Sacramento
Sam Whiting

At 6 on a Wednesday morning, Jim Bourgart is already 15 minutes into a 175-minute commute by foot, bus, train and foot again. From downtown San Francisco he'll catch an Amtrak motor coach to the Emeryville station, where he'll sit 20 minutes on a hard plastic bench waiting for the 6:40 to Sacramento.

He doesn't mind as long as he is moving. It is the lost sleep time in the waiting room that hurts. Since the Capitol Corridor runs both the bus and the train, you'd think it could tighten the time-cushion allowed for traffic that never appears on the eastbound bridge.

"I could use those extra 20 minutes, or even 10 or 5," says Bourgart, who starts his day with a 12-minute walk in the dark from his SoMa condo to the bus stop at the Market Street entrance to Bloomingdale's. "Every minute counts, especially in the morning."

The Capitol Corridor is a line made possible by the voters, who in 1990 approved Prop. 116 to provide state funding for intercity passenger rail service. Until 1998, there were only four trains each direction per day and the morning commute was essentially westbound only. Now there are 16 roundtrips. The State of California owns the rolling stock, Union Pacific owns the tracks, BART supplies administration, Amtrak staffs the trains and stations and a joint powers authority oversees it. The Capitol Corridor is like Caltrain with more layers of agencies.

Between four morning trains, 1,000 passengers ride from the Bay Area to Sacramento daily. Emeryville is by far the busiest station, with 135 daily commuters. They may be unhappy about spending four hours a day on a train, but they are less unhappy than they would be spending three hours a day in a car. By either mode of transit they are less unhappy than they would be living in the great Central Valley. That goes for patent attorney John O'Banion, who upped and moved with his wife to San Francisco after 35 years in the state capital.

"We're blessed with this beautiful city, and you don't have that in Sacramento," says O'Banion, who walks down California Street from Nob Hill to meet his bus. "So you give up a little bit."

Most of what you give up is sleep. O'Banion, 54, gets by on 5 1/2 hours. He looks fresh in the Emeryville waiting room, though he won't get his cup of coffee until the train leaves the Suisun/Fairfield stop, an hour away.

(Among other things you learn from the conductors is that the proper pronunciation is "Sue-son.")

The 6:40 is the most popular morning run and the San Franciscans can't get off those plastic chairs and out of that bright waiting room fast enough. A few minutes before the boarding call, they blow right by the sign that reads "Warning: Please remain behind this sign until the train stops," cross the tracks and are on the platform.

Of the 135 riders who board here, 80 are bound for Sacramento and 55 for Davis. Those going to Sacramento on the 6:40 are mostly lawyers and policymakers. The Davis riders are shabby graduate students and earthy faculty with bicycles heading to the UC campus. The students stash their bikes in the rear and climb upstairs into the quiet car, which is kept dark so they can curl up in a double seat and get another hour of sleep.

The Capitolists are one car up. Because the train originates in Oakland, as opposed to San Jose, it is still on time and empty when it reaches Emeryville. Not as empty as the Amtrak bus coming over from the city, but empty enough that everyone gets a two seater, and some get a four seat
booth with a table in the middle.

"I've got two offices," says O'Banion, unsnapping his briefcase. "I've got Amtrak and I've got Sacramento." Seated in the immediate vicinity, like the traveling salesmen in "the
Music Man" are Bourgart, Deputy Secretary for Transportation and Infrastructure; David Crane, Special Advisor to the Governor for Jobs and Economic Growth; Preston DuFauchard, California Corporations Commissioner; and John Rea, General Counsel for the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency.

They spread out, put their 10-ride tickets on the edge of their tables - so as not to be interrupted by the conductor - and begin their efficiencies. Three minutes into it, Crane has his laptop open and his BlackBerry working, his breakfast set out and his hard-boiled egg peeled.

"Without wireless, this would be a much less productive run," says Crane, who is on the intense end. He went to law school, just for the fun of taking the bar exam. He never intended to practice. When Schwarzenegger was elected, Crane started by driving to the Capitol, but switched to the train four years ago. Sometimes he returns on the 7:40 p.m., which gets in
at 9:20, getting him home at 10 to get up at 4:30 or 5 and start over.

"Because you can work so pleasantly in the train, it's delightful," he says, "as long as you like to work."

The fare from San Francisco is $24 one-way. Half the passengers buy blocks of tickets, bringing it down to $14 one-way. Unlike Amtrak lines, there is no federal money involved in the Capitol Corridor. Its $40 million budget comes from passenger fares and the state, on a 50-50 split.
At least two of the regulars on the 6:40 have some indirect connection to funding - Bourgart, 62, whose agency oversees Caltrans, a major funding source of the Capitol Corridor, and Crane, 54, who serves on the high-speed rail authority.

To be sure everything goes smoothly, Gene Skoropowski, managing director of the Capitol Corridor, boards the train in Martinez.

Skoropowski is quick to point out that the Capitol Corridor is one of only two lines in the country to still put fresh paper headrests on each seat.

"They're changed at least every day and oftentimes twice a day," brags Skoropowski, 63, a former architect who used to commute on the Boston line. His mother got tired of hearing him gripe about it. "She said 'If you want to change it you've got to get involved." So he did. That was 41 years ago. "I've been doing trains ever since."

It doesn't take too long before the topic of the 20-minute lag time between the arrival of the San Francisco bus and the departure of the 6:40 works its way into the conversation. "It's the closest to a guaranteed connection that we can make," says Skoropowski, who promises to look into
it. He's heard a few complaints on this, but nothing like when the bar car dropped Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Now that was a problem. He fielded 250 e-mails on that before he had a chance to restock it.

"It's whatever the riders want," he says. There is some debate as to whether riders want the seats to face forward or backward. People who are accustomed to riding Muni are used to facing forward so they can read without getting carsick. People who are wary of a train wreck like to face backward because the neck is protected from whiplash.

Then there is the debate over sitting on the east side facing the hills, versus the west side, facing the bay. On the 6:40, east side seats facing backward have the benefit of the sunrise. When it pases the oil refineries of Richmond, all the lights are still on, giving it the effect of a theme
park ride.

Riding on the west side, it feels like the train is out over the water. Plus you get to see remnants of the old working bayfront of junk yards and boat docks and dilapidated fishing clubs on stilts. One looks to be sinking into the bay, carrying its "for sale" sign with it. The train bends with the shoreline, up against the hills, barely wide enough for the tracks. Then it runs under the Carquinez Bridge, old span and new.

"The interesting thing about the train is you really take a ride through California's history," says DuFauchard as the train passes by the C&H Sugar plant. "There's manufacturing history, there's agricultural history. It's like that book 'Angle of Repose.' "

At Martinez it turns left and crosses the Carquinez Strait on an 80-year-old truss bridge between the two spans of the auto bridge. Then it bisects across farming and duck-hunting country, where you can see the elaborate blinds built to keep hunters camouflaged yet comfortable while waiting for the birds to come in.

The train passes under I-80 and cuts through cow country as it approaches Dixon. Skoropowski likes to tell the story of escorting some East Coast transportation experts through here. "One of them looked out the window and said 'where the hell are all the people out here? All I see is cows
and open space. I keep hearing that everything in California is overrun and overbuilt.' Skoropowski took the measure of the man. "Well, you're not getting correct information, are you?"

Then again, maybe they were. As the 6:40 rolls out of Dixon you get to see the subprime mortgage meltdown in trackside housing tracts. As it rolls into Davis the students are lined up with their bikes at the door to disembark for their 8 o'clock classes, which started two minutes ago.

From here it is a straight 15 minutes to its final destination in Sacramento, with 10 minutes of padding on the schedule. It is past 8, so the cell phones are drawn out and flipped open. Back in the sleeping car, Jackie Valle, 27, wakes up in precisely the same spot every day and starts
to apply makeup for her job at the Department of Public Health.

"My body is accustomed to it," says Valle, who lives in the Lower Haight and starts her day with a 5:30 Muni ride to Powell Street, where she crosses Market to catch the 6 a.m. Amtrak bus.

The Sacramento station, built in the 1920s for the old Southern Pacific line, is the opposite of the sanitized Emeryville station, which opened 15 years ago. The terminus of the Capitol Corridor is a grand brick building with arched windows and ceiling, hanging chandeliers and wooden phone
booths. At one end is a mural depicting the triumph of the Iron Horse, with non-iron horses standing by and Leland Stanford orating.

The waiting room still has those curvy wooden benches with heat coming up through iron grates atop the backrests. A group of Amish - men in Abe Lincoln beards and bowler hats, plain wives in bonnets - seems to be enjoying this modernity while waiting for the train to carry them back to
Lancaster County, Pa., in the absence of the stagecoach that used to come through here.

Forty Amtrak trains come through here a day, and there is an air of excitement when two runs pull in at once. A volunteer station host is standing on the platform to make sure passengers don't get turned around and end up on the California Zephr for Chicago when they are ticketed for San Francisco.

Bourgart is a volunteer station host in his own right. Exiting the train, he takes hold of two blind men and slowly leads them off the platform so their white canes don't get caught in the tracks.

Most commuters are homeward bound on the 3:35 or 4:40, but Bourgart usually catches the 5:40. The train pulls into Emeryville at 7:20 and his bus is waiting, engine running, as he walks across the platform and through the station. The connection is timed to the minute, the way he
wishes the morning was.

If there is no bridge traffic, he is back at that lonely stop in front of Bloomingdale's before 8 p.m., and 12 minutes later he is home. There isn't time for exercise or sports on TV. Dinner with his wife is about it, because 9 1/2 hours after he walks in the door he's walking back out.

E-mail Sam Whiting at swhiting@
Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Company That Grinds, Will Falter

Yahoo's problem is similar to that of many Silicon Valley companies. They have a difficult time determining what are their key priorities. Concurrently, they do not know how to rank what ideas matches the goal of their company.

We believed that these companies lacked the strategic overview from top to bottom.

Without a strategic overview, these companies are grinding step by step, never knowing what is the road ahead. T
hey never realized the Compass of their Tangible Vision.

With our Compass AE process as a decision-making tool, the decision makers determines what are their key priorities by studying their planned outcome, their priority ranking of value points and other strategic specifics of their Tangible Vision.

By gaining an strategic overview, Compass AE enables the decision makers to position themselves ahead of the competition.

Does your strategic process enables you to position ahead or does it place you into a situation of grinding behind your competition?

# # #

February 8, 2008
Is It Too Late for Yahoo?

SAN FRANCISCO One of the first questions that Jerry Yang and his top lieutenants pondered after he became chief executive of Yahoo last summer was whether the company could remain independent. They quickly answered yes.

But Mr. Yang, who founded Yahoo along with David Filo in 1995, had a harder time coming up with convincing answers for many of the more complex questions facing the company. How exactly would an independent Yahoo sharpen its focus, shed marginal projects and become a stronger competitor to Google, the runaway leader in online search and advertising?

Mr. Yang, a cerebral, highly analytic executive who, by all accounts, cares deeply about the company he helped build and its workers, appears to have run out of time to answer those questions. A $44.6 billion bid from Microsoft is once again forcing Mr. Yang and his board to consider the viability of Yahoo as an independent company.

This time, Mr. Yang, 39, faces enormous pressure as he decides whether to try to rescue the company from the clutches of Microsoft, or accept the bid and watch Yahoo become part of Microsoft’s arsenal in its no-holds-barred brawl with Google.

Some analysts and several current and former Yahoo executives are, meanwhile, wondering whether things would be different had Mr. Yang been quicker at making some of the tough choices that Yahoo faced.

He came on board, announced a 100-day strategic review and promised there would be no sacred cows, said Mark Mahaney, an analyst with Citigroup. One hundred days went by, and no cows were slaughtered.

It took until last week, more than six months into Mr. Yang’s tenure, for him to announce that Yahoo would cut 1,000 employees. At the same time, however, Mr. Yang warned investors that he had decided to make larger-than-expected investments in the business. The announcement sent the company’s shares down to their lowest level in more than three years, precipitating Microsoft’s bid.

Why couldn’t those things be hashed out in the first 100 days? Mr. Mahaney asked.

Yahoo declined to make Mr. Yang available for an interview. But other Yahoo executives strongly defended his short tenure, saying Mr. Yang had quickly set priorities and laid out a precise strategy for making Yahoo more competitive.

We have moved quickly and aggressively to implement our strategy, said Hilary Schneider, an executive vice president in charge of Yahoo’s network of advertisers and publishers.

By most measures, Mr. Yang is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley history. He helped build Yahoo from an early directory of Web sites into a sprawling Internet giant that offers services from online dating to e-mail that are used by nearly 500 million people around the globe. His wealth is estimated to top $2 billion.

Early on, as Yahoo’s business grew, Mr. Yang and Mr. Filo recognized that they did not have the experience to run the company. They called themselves Chief Yahoos and hired others to fill the chief executive post: Tim Koogle and then Terry S. Semel. Mr. Filo worked as an architect of Yahoo’s computer systems. Mr. Yang played the role of strategic adviser and represented Yahoo in front of investors and business partners.

Last June, Yahoo investors became increasingly disenchanted with Mr. Semel, as Yahoo struggled to compete with Google in the online search business and faced growing threats from successful social networks like MySpace and Facebook.

Mr. Semel resigned and Mr. Yang was unexpectedly thrust into the chief executive job. He inherited a long list of problems, including a demoralized work force and a company that had grown bureaucratic and cluttered with too many projects.

At the time, Mr. Yang said his years as a Yahoo strategist had prepared him well for the job. And he dismissed speculation that his tenure would be short-lived.

But many Yahoo executives, as well as some of Mr. Yang’s friends, say he accepted the job only reluctantly, out of a sense of responsibility and care for his company.

Mr. Yang himself, at times, suggested that some of the burdens of his new role weighed heavily on him. Speaking to Yahoo advertisers at a conference in October, he described the chief executive job as lonely.

As a founder everybody loves you, he said. When you become C.E.O., you can tell somewhat the behaviors change. He later added: You have to make tough calls.

Mr. Yang is generally well liked by Yahoo’s workers, and his appointment helped improve employee morale. He took steps to restore aspects of the company’s start-up culture, for example, by being more open about the challenges facing it. He held some meetings with executives in the middle of the cafeteria.

Mr. Yang and Yahoo’s president, Susan L. Decker, also moved quickly to hash out a strategy. The two thought that Yahoo’s business plan was basically sound but that the company needed to be better managed and had to get out of some businesses that were not vital to its future. They reorganized to make business units more accountable, and they made some acquisitions to build Yahoo’s advertising and e-mail technology.

They have moved faster than they have in the past and focused on increasing the value they provide to the advertiser, said David W. Kenny, chief executive of Digitas, an interactive marketing agency that is part of the Publicis Groupe.

Mr. Yang and Ms. Decker also began meeting regularly with an expanding group of top executives in the offices of Stone Yamashita Partners, a consulting firm in San Francisco. According to executives who attended those meetings, Mr. Yang and Ms. Decker were quick to outline Yahoo’s top priorities: becoming a starting point for consumers on the Web, developing technology and relationships to sell ads on Yahoo and other Web sites, and opening up Yahoo to outside programmers and publishers.

But to achieve those, Yahoo also had to cut some things. In particular, it had to prune its sprawling Internet portal so that employees could be reassigned to crucial projects.

You can’t place your chips on every spot and every color and every number, said Dan Finnigan, an executive vice president who ran Yahoo’s HotJobs site and left last year. Businesses like travel, shopping, music and even HotJobs were all great products, but none were going to make a huge difference in the fight with Google unless we used them to drive the main search business.

Many other executives agreed that Yahoo had to focus on fewer things. To stress the point, Mr. Yang invited Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, to give a pep talk to some 300 Yahoo vice presidents. Mr. Jobs told them that years earlier many Apple insiders wanted the company to compete with Palm’s personal digital assistants. Mr. Jobs said he decided against it, and noted that had Apple gone after Palm, it might not have been able to develop the iPod.

But cutting was not easy for Mr. Yang, who choked up in front of employees years ago when Yahoo made its first significant layoffs after the dot-com crash. When a group of executives presented options, he stalled.

Instead of saying yes or no, there were no decisions, said a person who attended many of the meetings. These decisions are agonizing for him. It’s his caring about the people and the company that make him both great for this job and difficult for the job.

One top executive countered that Mr. Yang had already shuttered some projects and turned Yahoo into a more efficient company, without jeopardizing profitable businesses.

Some analysts said the only move that could have averted Microsoft’s bid was for Yahoo to outsource its search advertising business to Google something the company is now considering.

Jordan Rohan, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, noted that this decision would have required Mr. Yang to admit defeat in a critical area. It would also have required a sense of urgency that Jerry has not necessarily shown, he said.

On Wall Street, patience was running thin. Yahoo shares kept declining, from a high of more than $34 in October to about $24 at the end of the year and a low of $18.58 last week.

We are still trying to do too many things, and fund them in a way that we need to in order to win, said a senior executive who has grown disillusioned with Mr. Yang. With the stock at $24 or $25, we’d be having a very different conversation now. But there were decisions made that were naïve that have left us in a position where we can’t control our destiny.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
# # #

Monday, February 11, 2008

Does Your Team Have a Compass of their Tangible Vision?

You and your team are starting a new project. They need to brainstorm.

Following are some of the brainstorm-related questions that we ask the team of our clients:
  • Do you focus on knowing the planned outcome?
  • Do you prioritizes what are your core values into your brainstorm session?
  • Does the specifics of the objectives connect to each other and the goal?
  • Do you know what are the guidelines that your team abides by?
  • Does you and your team connect to Collaborate?
If you cannot answer these questions, you need a strategic collaborative process.

You need Compass AE.


February 10, 2008
Mashups Are Breaking the Mold at Microsoft

REDMOND, Wash. TUCKED away in a building on this forested corporate campus, John Montgomery and his team of 17 programmers might be more at home in Silicon Valley than at Microsoft.

Compared with its tenacious Internet competitors like Google and Yahoo, Microsoft is generally still viewed as being more of the shrink-wrapped software generation than the Web 2.0 world.

In Silicon Valley today, software is increasingly delivered as a Web service, it is often put together by teams of programmers who might be scattered on three continents, it’s often free to users, and Web surfers usually do the testing soon after the first prototype is complete.

By contrast, Microsoft has long been a software engineering culture in which huge projects like Windows Vista are developed and tested by teams of hundreds, and whose completion time is measured in a large fraction of decades.

Although it is not yet widely visible to the outside world, some people inside Microsoft are beginning to break that mold.

Mr. Montgomery, a veteran product manager who has also worked as a computer industry writer and editor, is an example of how it just might be possible to teach dinosaurs to dance.

Last fall, his team introduced an intriguing software Web service called Popfly that is intended to make it possible for nonprogrammers to plug together Web components and data sources quickly to create useful new Web services. For example, news feeds could be added to digital images, or data lists to maps.

Introduced at the Web 2.0 conference last year by Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, Popfly was picked by PC World magazine as one of the most innovative computing and consumer electronics products of 2007. It has garnered more than 100,000 users the company says the exact number is confidential and now has a library of more than 50,000 mashups: new components or Web pages that have been created in a visual snap-together fashion, like Lego blocks.

The mashup is at the heart of a generation of Lego-style software that is emblematic of the second generation of the Internet. Both Google and Yahoo have developed tools to help Web users display apartment rentals on maps, or build complicated Web sites like, which is intended to offer diverse local information for travelers.

The Popfly programmers, however, have gone a step further in an effort to design a tool that is intended for a generation of Web users who are familiar with the Internet but are not skilled programmers.

A user might take Popfly and mash up his list of Amazon book recommendations with the Seattle Library book catalog on the Web, he said, and receive a notification when the waiting list for a particular book was down to zero.

This is not just a passive experience, Mr. Montgomery said. You can take this stuff and use it in new ways.

He now sees his target audience as people who are not professional developers, but who work with information.

Popfly, he said, is for the 21- to 27-year-old crowd who grew up on the Web.

They have never known a world without eBay, Amazon, or Google, he added. They assume that when you create a piece of software it will be Internet-connected and it will have an innate sense of who your friends are.

Microsoft is certainly not alone in seeing this kind of an opportunity. Yahoo offers a widely used tool call Yahoo Pipes that offers some of the same capabilities as Popfly, and Google has designed a mashup editor for more skilled programmers.

But Mr. Montgomery sees Popfly as a more ambitious and comprehensive effort. He also thinks that it could turn into a general educational tool for nonprogrammers.

That is what prompted him to visit an introductory computing course in December at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., where the computer scientist Mark Frydenberg is using Popfly to teach his students how to interact with digital data in new ways.

So far, students’ projects have run the gamut from simple calculators or clocks that can be displayed on a Web page, to World of Warcraft blocks that make it possible to connect the multiplayer fantasy game to other Web services like Facebook.

Mr. Frydenberg said he believed that Popfly would be a perfect educational tool for the Bentley students, because the college has a general business focus.

This will help the students think about merging data from two different sources, he said. That’s a problem that happens in business all the time.

IF Popfly can become that kind of a tool widely used on the Web, it will be an important quiver in the strategy that was started in 2005 by Ray Ozzie, who is now Microsoft’s chief software architect.

His message was that the only interesting software is going to be software that is connected to the Web and we have to work on that, Mr. Montgomery said.

At the time, Mr. Montgomery was the product manager of the company’s .Net software business, which had been the focus of Microsoft’s previous Internet strategy. But he quickly realized that Microsoft had to reach a much broader audience than its core base of professional software developers.

Mr. Montgomery was intrigued by the phenomenon of 13-year-olds who were tricking out their MySpace pages with digital bling. They didn’t realize it, but by cutting and pasting snippets of code together, they were programming, he said.

The largest challenge facing the Microsoft team of Popfly developers will be to gain the acceptance of the broader Web world. Because the company chose to design Popfly using a Microsoft Web graphics and animation technology called Silverlight, it will be treated with suspicion by an Internet universe that is increasingly committed to open standards.

Silverlight is an alternative developed by Microsoft to compete against Adobe’s Flash and, more recently, Flex systems, that are now used ubiquitously by Web developers.

Mr. Montgomery will also have to overcome the skepticism with which many Internet veterans now view Microsoft.

Popfly shows me that Microsoft still thinks this is all about software, rather than about accumulating data via network effects, which to me is the core of Web 2.0, said Tim O’Reilly, the founder and chief executive of O’Reilly Media, a print and online publisher. They are using Popfly to push Silverlight, rather than really trying to get into the mashup game.

For his part, Mr. Montgomery believes that Popfly does have some very big ideas to offer the Web world. He is following in an important tradition that began in the 1960s with computer languages like Logo and Smalltalk, which were aimed at unlocking the power of computing for nontechnical users. Today he is betting that Popfly will offer a simple way to give the power of programming to the rest of us.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Friday, February 8, 2008

Competing in the Global Economy (Using Compass AE to Create Innovation)

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." --- Thomas Alva Edison

"If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labour." --- Nikola Tesla, New York Times, October 19, 1931

With the Compass AE process, the project team understands the big picture. They understand the connections between the incremental chain of objectives to the goal . Instead of grinding, the team is strategically positioned to complete their goal.

A Compass team that build, connect and lead with a Tangible Vision is a team with positional advantage. We have a specific template that enables product development teams to stay focused on their objectives while minding the big picture.

When a Compass team achieves the gold standard of innovation, they have a good chance of becoming a successful trendsetter.

If you are interested in learning more about Compass AE, please e-mail us at contactus [tat]collaboration360[dott] com. [ Replace [tat] with "@" and [dot] with "." ]


Copyright:2008 © Collaboration360 Consultants (C360).
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.


February 3, 2008
Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work

WE’VE all heard the tales of the apple falling on Newton’s head and Archimedes leaping naked from his bath shrieking “Eureka!” Many of us have even heard that eBay was created by a guy who realized that he could help his fiancée sell Pez dispensers online.

The fact that all three of these epiphany stories are pure fiction stops us short. As humans, we want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.

Balderdash. Epiphany has little to do with either creativity or innovation. Instead, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time.

“The most useful way to think of epiphany is as an occasional bonus of working on tough problems,” explains Scott Berkun in his 2007 book, “The Myths of Innovation.” “Most innovations come without epiphanies, and when powerful moments do happen, little knowledge is granted for how to find the next one. To focus on the magic moments is to miss the point. The goal isn’t the magic moment: it’s the end result of a useful innovation.”

Everything results from accretion, Mr. Berkun says: “I didn’t invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.”

The innovator Jim Marggraff, creator of an interactive world globe called the Odyssey Atlasphere, the LeapPad reading platform for children and LeapFrog’s Fly talking pen, explains that each creation built on the work that went into making the previous one. That same process of accretion holds true for the Pulse Smartpen, introduced last week by his new company, Livescribe; he hopes that the product, which records audio while it tracks what the pen writes, will bring back computing to its pen-and-paper roots.

“The aha moments grow out of hours of thought and study,” he says. “If you look at my innovations, there’s a common theme. I take something familiar, intuitive and ubiquitous and recast it in a manner that will redefine its use to drive profound change.”

The Atlasphere grew from his dismay that one in seven American adults could not find the United States on an unmarked world map, and that one in four couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean. He sees geographic illiteracy as a big obstacle to world peace, so he packed his interactive globe with games and tens of thousands of geographic and cultural facts, all available at the touch of a stylus.

The “near touch” technology that went into the Atlasphere might have other educational benefits, Mr. Marggraff realized. A self-described “student of learning and learning systems,” he had been puzzling over how to help his 4-year-old son understand reading.

“I was pointing to the words on the page and trying to explain what a word was, but I’d watch him and realize that he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about,” he says. “This black-ink thing here is called a letter — I realized this was all very abstract.”

Mr. Marggraff likes to go to bed with one or more problems on his mind. “Typically, I’ll fall asleep chewing on it and then I’ll wake up at 4 in the morning with some sort of solution,” he says.

That’s a common theme in innovation, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist at the Claremont Graduate University in California. “Cognitive accounts of what happens during incubation assume that some kind of information processing keeps going on even when we are not aware of it, even while we are asleep,” he writes in “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.”

This time, Mr. Marggraff awoke at 4 in the morning determined to “flatten out” the globe so he could use the Atlasphere’s near-touch technology on a single page and, ultimately, within a specially designed book to help children learn how to read. Though some would call this an epiphany, it took years of trial and error to make the LeapPad a reality.

“There’s an aha moment followed by a ton of work to figure out what it is that’s actually going to work,” agrees Douglas K. van Duyne, co-founder of Naviscent, a Web usability consulting firm. “It goes back to that old saw that invention is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. The idea of epiphany is a dreamer’s paradise where people want to believe that things are easier than they are. It takes a huge amount of determination and effort to follow through.”

Businesses want to believe that a brilliant mind or a brilliant idea can make or break their innovation efforts, Mr. Berkun says. The myth of epiphany has a long history because it’s appealing to believe that there is a short, simple reason that things happen. The myth has staying power because there is a tiny core of truth within it.

“But as soon as you dig into what happened five minutes before that magic moment, or a day, or a week, or a month,” he says, “you realize that there is a much more complicated story in the background."

THAT more complicated story most often begins and ends with a determined, hard-working and open-minded person trying, and failing, to find a solution to a given problem.

“Successful entrepreneurs do not wait until ‘the Muse kisses them’ and gives them a ‘bright idea’: they go to work," Peter F. Drucker says in “Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” “Altogether they do not look for the ‘biggie,’ the innovation that will ‘revolutionize the industry,’ create a ‘billion-dollar business’ or ‘make one rich overnight.’ Those entrepreneurs who start out with the idea that they’ll make it big — and in a hurry — can be guaranteed failure.”

It’s not that these magical moments of epiphany don’t happen. In small ways, they happen all the time. But they’re not nearly as important as what the innovator did before — or ultimately does after — the magic light bulb goes on. As the French scientist Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Janet Rae-Dupree writes about science and emerging technology in Silicon Valley.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Is Compass AE the Answer for the Productivity Paradox?

Many people believe that being more knowledgeable means that they are more productive in their work. Without a strategic process, these people spend their time grinding at the current task, . . .
barely understanding what is in front of them.

Cardinal Rule: Process Precedes Technology
Some people prefer using technology as the complete solution for everything. Realistically, technology is a narrow short cut that completes the objective. It rarely solves the long term problem. A good general strategy process is usually the answer. Where it specifically starts by understanding the goal and the objectives.

In most cases, most people work from ground up. Focusing on one task at a time without ever acknowledging what is ahead of them. They grind away their resources and time.

With the Compass AE process, the project implementers are able to collaboratively see the full Compass of their plan (Tangible Vision) regardless of their project culture, technology and distance.

Specifically, they are able to focus on completing their objectives while minding the goal. This feature positions the implementors in a strategic advantage.

Does your planning process allows your team to perform the above standards? If not, you need Compass AE.

If you are interested in learning more about Compass AE, please e-mail us at contactus [tat]collaboration360[dott] com. [ Replace [tat] with "@" and [dot] with "." ]


The productivity paradox
By Brent Frei and Mark Mader,

Published on ZDNet News: Jan 29, 2008 4:00:00 AM
If there were a Productivity Hall of Fame, John Deere would definitely occupy a place of prominence.

The 19th century inventor introduced his cutting-edge steel plow with a polished and curved blade in 1837. In the process, he revolutionized agriculture. Tilling an acre of land with a spade required 96 hours and plowing an acre with a yoke of oxen and a crude wooden plow took 24 hours. Deere's steel plow reduced the time to five to eight hours.

Fred Smith would also be inducted into the Productivity Hall of Fame. On the night of April 17, 1973, the Yale-educated logistics master sent the first FedEx narrow-body Dassault Falcon jet roaring down the runway at the Memphis airport. From that moment on, packages were delivered more rapidly--absolutely, positively overnight.

Another sure-fire member of our pantheon of productivity would be Andy Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel. Under Grove's leadership, Intel brought out a new generation of microchips that powered the first wave of PCs in the 1980s. Those PCs with Intel inside spelled the demise of typewriters and paper account ledgers, and set the stage for digital time-saving tools like e-mail.

Even though we now have the technological ability to do faster work, we may not be doing better work.

Deere, Smith, and Grove each made it possible--and easier--for us to do more work faster.

That's the nature of productivity. And productivity is the lifeblood of a nation's economy. America's efficient assembly line culture, spurred by Henry Ford and General Motors' Alfred Sloan, certainly proved this in the 20th century.

Once the Model-Ts started rolling, America's labor productivity growth started surging, averaging about 2 percent each year. That growth rate helped double the U.S. standard of living every 35 years.

As the hyper-prosperous high-tech 1990s unfolded, Americans were living better than at any time in our history. Indeed, the Internet accelerated the U.S. productivity revolution, pushing annual labor productivity growth up to 2.5 percent between 1995 and 2000, and 2.8 percent between 2000 and 2004.

Productivity growth has slowed since 2004, however, and nobody is sure why.

Certainly, technology has done its job. In the wake of downsizing, budget cuts, re-engineering, and outsourcing, it has filled in the gaps at company after company. As a result, supply chains are efficient and lean, the financial services industry is automated, and manufacturing processes are flexible. Indeed, the average company in America now spends between $5,000 and $10,000 per knowledge worker on hardware and software designed to boost productivity.

One theory that may explain declining productivity growth has been advanced by McKinsey consultants, who believe that companies have finally cut the non-complex transactional positions that benefit from productivity-stimulating technology. All that's left are complicated and nuanced jobs requiring experience, expertise, judgment, interaction, and collaboration--or tacit knowledge. Increasing productivity for these employees, whose jobs can't be automated, has thus far proven to be a challenge for software developers.

Another way of explaining the decrease in productivity is to admit that much of the productivity-enhancing technology now in use hasn't made us more productive. According to Basex, a research firm focusing on the knowledge economy, interruptions from e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging, and blogs eat up nearly 30 percent of each day; on an annualized basis, this represents a loss of 28 billion hours for the entire U.S. workforce, or a $588 billion cost to the American economy.

An equally sad truth is that even though we now have the technological ability to do faster work, we may not be doing better work. More problematic is the fact that we're generally not working easily or happily--in groups or on our own.

A 2006 research study conducted among sales and marketing teams at Intel indicated that 54 percent of those surveyed believed e-mail had a negative impact on their stress levels. And a number of other studies show that productivity-enhancing hardware and software has helped heighten distraction and discontinuity in the workplace at the expense of critical and creative thinking--as well as constructive collaboration.

This is a large and looming problem because, as McKinsey says, we are entering an interaction revolution that will require employees to truly and sensitively come together to achieve top- and bottom-line goals in a hyper-competitive global marketplace.

Automating the knowledge economy is essential to our nation's health. And when this technological turn of the wheel takes place it will almost certainly drive productivity growth back up--but in the right way that makes sense for well-meaning companies and the hard-working people within them.

©2007 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.

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