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Archive for the ‘Leadership & Management’ Category

Peacetime & Wartime CEOs

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Ben Horowitz @bhorowitz on the type of CEOs needed during expansion vs. war. Google is entering a “war” and that couldn’t be truer! Gives high accolades to Andy Grove & Steve Jobs for being great Wartime CEOs.

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Interestingly, most management books describe peacetime CEO techniques while very few describe wartime.

In peacetime, leaders must maximize and broaden the current opportunity. As a result, peacetime leaders employ techniques to encourage broad-based creativity and contribution across a diverse set of possible objectives. In wartime, by contrast, the company typically has a single bullet in the chamber and must, at all costs, hit the target. The company’s survival in wartime depends upon strict adherence and alignment to the mission.

Wartime CEO is too busy fighting the enemy to read management books written by consultants who have never managed a fruit stand.
John Chambers had a great run as peacetime CEO of Cisco, but has struggled as Cisco has moved into war with Juniper, HP, and a range of new competitors.

Be aware that management books tend to be written by management consultants who study successful companies during their times of peace. As a result, the resulting books describe the methods of peacetime CEOs. In fact, other than the books written by Andy Grove, I don’t know of any management books that teach you how to manage in wartime like Steve Jobs or Andy Grove.

Peacetime CEO aims to expand the market. Wartime CEO aims to win the market.




Written by Ashu Joshi

April 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

Apple vs. Samsung: Tales of Supply Chain

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Apple is known for clever partnerships yielding the best supply chain management. Imagine the Apple A4 & A5 chip are built by Samsung, using Samsung IP and building blocks but Samsung cannot build their own chip but has to use Nvidia.

The article talks about how conglomerates have to keep barricades up between different divisions. I suspect that in this case – Apple is also muscling its way for better deals. And why shouldn’t they?

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Steve Jobs likes to poke bears. The Apple (AAPL) chief executive officer has ribbed the likes of IBM (IBM), Google (GOOG), Adobe (ADBE), and Microsoft (MSFT). In many cases, he rips into these companies even while Apple depends on them as partners. Adobe and Microsoft, in particular, have long provided valuable software for Apple’s operating system. No matter. They’re still subject to abuse from the man in the black turtleneck.

His latest whipping boy: Samsung, a rival to Apple in the consumer electronics business. During the iPad 2 unveiling on Mar. 2, Jobs roasted Samsung, making fun of one of its executives who tried to defend sales of the Galaxy Tab, the company’s answer to Apple’s first tablet computer. He also gave Samsung top billing in a chart proclaiming 2011 the “Year of the Copycats.”


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Written by Ashu Joshi

April 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

iPad: Can rivals compete on price?

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Interesting analysis by TechRepublic on how Apple’s own retail stores provide an edge in pricing compared to HTC, Samsung and host of other Tablet vendors.

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Takeaway: The biggest disappointment of nearly every promising competitor to the Apple iPad has been the price tag. Learn the one trump card that allows Apple to out-price rival tablets.

More specifically, the combination of Apple’s 300+ retail stores and its online Apple Store means that the company sells a huge chunk of its iPads directly to its customers.  While Apple has cut distribution deals with Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon, and a few others, those are mostly market-share grabs and ways to help spread the iPad’s marketing message.

Apple appears to carefully control the inventory it sends to these retail partners. Even during the holidays, there weren’t typically huge stacks of iPads on a pallet in the aisle at Best Buy or Wal-Mart like other popular consumer electronics such as the Nintendo Wii or the Xbox 360. The iPads seemed to be sprinkled among the various retailers throughout the holidays. Meanwhile, the Apple retail stores were loaded with an almost unlimited supply of iPads, so if you wanted to make sure you got one your best bet was to go there (or order one from Apple’s Web store). One estimate was that Apple sold 8.8 iPads per hour per retail store on Black Friday.

was utterly impossible for Samsung to hit — unless it was selling the tablet directly to consumers



Written by Ashu Joshi

February 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

Mastering M&A, The Cisco Way

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A very old but gold blog post. Much has changed in the world since then but the efficiency of Cisco’s M&A and investment process continues to shine. Very proud of what Cisco has accomplished, and moving forward this expertise would be very useful.

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How has Cisco succeeded where so many others have failed? Simply put, experts say, it has professionalized a process that other companies turn to only on occasion–usually out of either greed or necessity. “My experience with most companies is that they do acquisitions infrequently and integration is somebody’s nighttime job,” says Brett Galloway, the former CEO of Airespace, a wireless networking company Cisco acquired last year. “Cisco has people who do this full time–it’s a core function of the company.”

As successful as Cisco has been in identifying hot new technologies and taking calculated risks in new markets, experts say, the true strength of its mergers-and-acquisitions operation lies elsewhere. Indeed, if there is a secret to Cisco’s success, it is this: Cisco has come to realize that the acquisition of technology really isn’t just about technology. “For us,” says Hooper, “the people are the most strategic asset.” If, after the acquisition, Cisco loses the technologists and product managers who created, say, the Linksys router, then it has lost the second and third generations of the product that existed only in those employees’ heads. That, says Hooper, is where the billion-dollar markets lie. And that is where Cisco’s acquisitions are aimed. “We need the expertise,” he says. “We need the people.”

SAN JOSE, CALIF.–Ned Hooper uses one word to describe corporate acquisition. “It’s traumatic–always,” says the vice president of business development at Cisco Systems, whose former company was acquired by the tech giant in 1998. “No matter how successful you’ve been and how much you make on the deal,” he says, “it’s traumatic because there’s change coming.”



Written by Ashu Joshi

February 16, 2011 at 9:01 am

Posted in Leadership & Management

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How Prototyping and-or Beta Improves Success

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I left my last post on the note of importance of prototyping.  I would argue “prototyping” was always important but thanks technology advances such as Cloud Computing & Web 2.0 have made it accessible. The Lean Startup Movement promotes the idea of betas and early prototypes.

1.       Software, especially Web-based, is easy to prototype, and no-brainer to implement as a part of company or product evolution. Aza Raskin, creative lead for Firefox, posted an excellent slide deck on the advantages of prototyping.

2.       Consumers have embraced the concept of Beta, products introduced with minimal but most important features: Google has made the concept of a product in “Beta” very popular and acceptable.

3.       Investors, Bloggers have endorsed the idea of “prototyping” – finding customers early on, as an example, Vivek Wadhwa recently wrote about “looking before you leap” and talked about a startup that has been experimenting & prototyping for 14 months.

Written by Ashu Joshi

July 15, 2010 at 10:09 pm

The Dell Dilemma

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I write this as Dell is about to announce their latest quarterly results on May 28th. Dell’s struggles in the past few years are well documented in blogs (technical and financial) and their own financial results, even after the comeback of Michael Dell the struggle has continued. Here is a sampling:

  1. Dell’s current revenues are steeped in PCs & Notebooks. The financial year ending January 31st, 2009 had 60% of its revenues in Mobility & PCs – Mobility accounting 31% of the revenues.
  2. Even though there are some predictions in the market that the business have quit slashing their IT budgets – it is difficult to envision how Dell is going to come out at the top. Year over year revenues are stagnant at $61.1 billion and the profit is down from $2.94 billion to $2.47 billion.
  3. Dell still seems to be dabbling with no clear sense of strategy and direction. Dell has done business selling flat panel TVs and handheld devices.
  4. And recently has been attempting to introduce a Smart Phone! Doing a Google Search on “Dell Cell Phone” results in the first entry indicating that they have been mulling a cell phone since 2007! But as you search and read on you find out that carriers have more or less rejected the Dell Cell Phone citing it as too dull. Oh and as I write this and run various Google searches I come across a post which says the Dell’s Cell Phone is Dead!
  5. Dell also has recently launched the Adamo series to compete with the Macbook Air from Apple. It has been slow on the Netbook market trend as well. And, of course, like many others, Dell is also rumored to be tinkering with Android based Netbook!
  6. Dell is going to face an interesting challenge on the server front thanks to Cloud Offerings by the likes of Amazon and Google in addition to the traditional competition from Sun, HP, and IBM. Not to make things easier even Cisco has entered the Server Market recently!
  7. Net-net this lack of direction is well summarized here!

So what is Dell to do, IMHO:

As a recent investor in DELL and watching their stock price meander with no direction, I was prompted to write this post.

Dell needs to make radical changes on what and how they build their products. They need to enter product categories that allow them to create a Blue Ocean or Purple Cow. Simply speaking they need to out-compete their competition – introducing just another Smart Phone or a Netbook is probably not going to be a game changer.

The down-turn in the industry is a good time for Dell to re-invent itself.

Written by Ashu Joshi

May 25, 2009 at 10:57 am