Thursday, May 18, 2006

Common Sense view of Customers and Competition ala Microsoft and IBM

We always speak about customers and competition in day to day work life. However do we really think about them as the way we should? I found a couple of interesting ideas that I though would be worthy of a post.

In the Fortune story on Microsoft's Ray Ozzie:

"Ray really starts with the customer," says Windows and MSN boss Kevin Johnson. "He looks at things 'outside in,' as he says, not
technology-out."

It comes as no surprise. A company like Microsoft, which is highly successful and deep into consumer software, still has a warped view of the customer. It is more like what we can do, rather than what the customer wants. I would argue this is the case with most other companies. I wonder how life would be if each of us asked every time we did something at work: How is it helping my customer? Is this what the customer really needs? Are we really solving the customer's problems or are we pushing paperwork and bureaucracy forward? It does not matter if you are doing sales, marketing, service, engineering or finance. Keeping the customer in mind can be a really powerful weapon.

In Who Says Elephants can't Dance? - a book on IBM's transformation, Gerstner talks about competition. He says that many IBMers lost their jobs, pensions and healthcare plans due to layoffs when IBM was in a bad shape. But who were responsible for those layoffs? Surprisingly, things like tough time, bad products were attributed as the causes inside IBM. Gerstner says it was the competition that took away those jobs, it was competition that ate the lunch of IBMers and made their lives tough in retirements and layoffs. I wonder how many of us think like this. If we do not get a raise, we will blame our management, colleagues or luck, but I have rarely seen anyone blame competition for it. We are there in business to win against competition and the rest of the things will fall in place. Gerstner further says that response to competition should be visceral, flowing in the veins, and not stimulated externally. Its such a common sensical, neat approach which is sadly mostly found missing in worklife.

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