Satya Nadella Must Drag Microsoft Into the Age of the Customer

Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, must take three actions to make the company relevant in the Age of the Customer:

1) Attack mobile. Customers are undergoing a mobile mind shift -- an expectation that they can get any information or service on any device at any time wherever they may be. Nadella must establish Microsoft as the third mobile ecosystem, legitimately competing with the formidable franchises of Apple (iOS) and Google (Android). Amazon, with its profit-free business model, will spend unlimited dollars to win the third spot. And a hoard of challengers, from Samsung to Dell to Lenovo will generate confusion and a shower of Hail Mary products in desperate efforts to gain a foothold. Nadella must flawlessly execute in a space that is unfamiliar (he's a cloud guy) and unforgiving. The good news is that Microsoft has a rich history of building powerful ecosystems (e.g., Windows, .NET). But this time around it must approach the market as a challenger, not as the dominant player. Which brings us to...

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Davos 2014

Here are my thoughts from the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos...

1) I always go to Davos with a quick poll to ask my fellow attendees. This year my question was: "Is Edward Snowden a traitor or a hero?" 32 attendees voted "traitor" while 21 voted "hero." Europeans and young people tended more to the "hero" side. Everyone involved with the U.S. government (senators, congressmen, ex- or current administration officials) unanimously voted "traitor."

2) When I asked Marissa Mayer of Yahoo what she would ask President Obama to do to regarding security and privacy, she had a simple answer -- "More transparency."

3) When I asked my technology panel how much of a citizen's digital information he or she could expect to be private in the future, the answer was "90%." That would mean that 10% of your emails would be viewable by a third party -- but you wouldn't know which 10%. I'm not sure customers would tolerate these levels.

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Davos Panel: The New Digital Context

Here at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, I moderated a CEO discussion on “The New Digital Context” (video below). Thank you to my panelists Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), Marc Benioff (, John Chambers (Cisco), Randall Stephenson (AT&T), and Gavin Patterson (BT).

We are in the age of the customer, where technology is dramatically accelerating the shift in power from institutions to individuals, forcing organizations to be with their customers as they move through time and space.


My big takeaways from the panel:

  • The age of the customer underpins what’s coming next in tech: context-driven systems, the Internet of everything, and customer-centric software.
  • Much of the Internet of everything will focus on personal care and health.
  • These leaders want more transparency from the Obama administration regarding privacy — critical to regaining customer trust.
  • Total privacy is history. The national security concerns are too great. In the future, the best that people can hope for is that 90% of their data will be private.
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What Questions Would You Ask At Davos?

I am moderating a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos in two weeks. The title is:  "The New Digital Context -- What societal, economic and technological forces are shaping the digital landscape?" 

The panelists are:  Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, and Gavin Patterson, CEO of British Telecom

I need your help. What questions would you ask my panelists? What topics would you want my group of CEOs to explore? What areas of technology should we focus on?

Leave your suggested questions here as comments. I will take the best one and pose it to my panel -- and I will give the author a shout-out.

Thanks in advance.

Best Of 2013

As we all head off into the New Year, I wanted to look back at what I consider to be the  "Best of..." for 2013. Note that the following is based entirely on my personal opinions -- it is not grounded in Forrester's research or formal positions. Here's what I liked from 2013, in no particular order...

One:  My favorite book of the year is 4/5s bummer and 1/5th hopeful. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfees' Race Against the Machine outlines how prodigiously improving digital technology is going to put millions out of work, from truck drivers to radiologists. But the authors end on an up note:  human beings cannot win the race against the machines, but they can excel if they race with the machines -- that is, use digital to be better doctors, geologists, factory workers, or chefs. There is hope for mankind...

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Your Opportunity in the Age of the Customer

The age of the customer is a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful companies will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. Re-engineering your company to become customer-obsessed will be hard work, but savvy C-level executives I’ve been speaking with about this tectonic shift immediately grasp the opportunity. 

I spoke about the age of the customer today at LeWeb Paris (you can see the video here, and my slides here) where I focused on one early element of customer empowerment - the mobile mind shift. Your customers expect any information or service they desire be available to them on any device, in context, at their moment of need. Forrester’s global Mobile Mind Shift Index measures how far along a group of consumers are in this change in attitude and behavior.

To serve these customers, you will have to move from systems of record to systems of engagement. Apps are just a small part of that equation. Instead, we’re talking about re-engineering your entire company to deliver great digital experiences. Your brands will compete against Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon for setting the bar for great customer experiences. What It Means: In the future, every company will be a software company. Software is the new business currency more important than financial capital.

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Tech Management In The Age Of The Customer

We are now in the age of the customer, with buyers using technology to gain control over institutions. That power flows from customers’ newfound ability to seamlessly price, critique, and direct their purchases.
What does this mean? At the risk of being overly dramatic, the future belongs to customer-obsessed enterprises.
All of this holds many implications for your company — especially around marketing — and in future posts I will explore those dynamics. But one question intrigues me at the moment: What will the age of the customer mean for the techies in your company?
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Microsoft: Return Of The Jedi

Every 10 years or so, a company in the technology industry that appears to be dead, dying, or stagnant makes an amazing turnaround. In 1980, it was Intel; buried by the Japanese in the dynamic memory business, it reinvented itself as a microprocessor company. In the 1990s, it was IBM — saved from breakup-hungry investment bankers by Lew Gerstner to be reborn as a services company. In the 2000s, it was Apple.

It’s the 2010s now, so who’s poised to play Luke Skywalker?

Here’s the case for Microsoft. One, it’s still a powerful brand, as were IBM and Apple. Two, a new generation of leadership is about to arrive, with fresh ideas and the courage to break with the past. Three, the DNA of the company lies in programming — perfectly positioning it for the next big industry wave.

Did I lose you on that last one? Here’s how the logic flows:

Over the next five years, the Web will become the AM radio of digital — always around, cheap, the lowest common denominator — but not the place where high-value commerce and content is centered. The Web is a file-based architecture; 95% of the processing happens on remote servers, with only 5% on the PC, tablet, phone, or whatever the endpoint device might be. The advantage of the Web is that the architecture is very simple, it runs on all devices, and it can be made to do lots of good work — think or Facebook. It’s actually quite amazing how companies like Google have pushed HTML (and antecedents) as far as they have — akin to saddling a cow and getting it to run competitive times in the software Kentucky Derby. 

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10 Things The CEO Can Do To Drive Digital

Forrester held its European Business Technology Forum in London this week -- a convocation of CIOs, Enterprise Architects, Infrastructure and Operations Professionals, Security and Risk Professionals, and Sourcing and Vendor Management Professionals. Lots of great connections were made in London, as per the pic on the left. On Monday night I hosted a working dinner for 20 executives -- a very lively group from BASF, Tetra Pak, Unilever, KLM, Bayer, the WTO, and other large European companies. What's very much on the minds of these BT execs is how to position their companies to be more digital. And when they use the term "digital" they mean, "Using technology to win customers." 

So over dinner we worked on a simple question: "What are the top 10 things a CEO should do to ensure that his or her company can successfully become digital?" Here's the best thinking that the group could muster after much good food, wine, humor, and fun. I have built in some links to relevant Forrester thinking...

  1. Clearly define who owns digital. Clean up the organizational confusion
  2. Create the business case for digital. Show how it increases revenue or increases profit (or both).
  3. If you can't understand the new world of digital, fire yourself.
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Apple's Folding Future

Ever wonder what's going to happen next in smartphones? After the conservative iPhone 5 and the relentless and surprising onslaught of Samsung, it's clear that Apple's next move in the space will have to be revolutionary. Ennui has seeped into the minds of some Apple faithful as they have become bored with their phones, and envious with what's happening over the fence in Android's backyard. The iPhone 6 (not due for another 15 months) will be a signal moment for Tim Cook and team -- it must astound and amaze, all without you-know-who leading the charge. This will either be a first step toward Sonyland or a breathtaking victory for the new regime. There will be no room for the careful incrementalism of the 5.

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