Friday, June 17, 2016

Is Salesforce's Acquisition of Demandware a mutually beneficial one?

I started my career with contribution to a massive CRM based product and contributed towards it for more than 3 years. So it is safe to say that my last stint with CRM software was way back in the past. In that sense, this blog (about Salesforce acquiring Demandware for $2.8 bn- both CRM related companies) was not a default choice for me to write about but something still got me interested. Sharing some of my reasons here-
1. I was in one of the meetings recently that CEO of my current organization was hosting. A question came up about his philosophy around acquisitions. He said that his guiding question is- "What would we do to make them (the target company) better?". In saying this, he shared this example of Salesforce and Demandware acquisition, which got me curious to explore further.
2. Another coincidence, I was reading this book currently- "Behind the Cloud", which tracks the amazing story of success of
3.I was recently discussing with my college friend on his idea of starting a podcast to study recent technology trends. We got to discuss a bit about studying technology acquisitions as a way to understand the direction our industry is headed.
4. Lastly, I had a good run while doing the technology journalism for and during that stint, almost a year back or so. I did write a good lot about acquisitions happening at that time.

So, let’s look at some of the specifics here- starting with the core reason of existence of these companies.'s customer relationship management service is broken down into several broad categories: Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Data Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Community Cloud, Analytics Cloud, App Cloud, and IoT with over 100,000 customers. was the first cloud-based enterprise application company.
Demandware is a software technology company providing a cloud-based e-commerce platform and related services for retailers and brand manufacturers around the world. Demandware was founded to provide a hosted service that would enable companies to develop and manage easy-to-use, customizable e-commerce websites, rather than building a site from scratch.

Given the similarity in the delivery models i.e. Software-as-a-Service, Demandware's acquisition allows Salesforce a direct entry into lucrative digital commerce market- which apparently was a missing piece in its portfolio.

So this raises a question- Why would Salesforce really have to target digital commerce segment?
A simple answer- because its competitors already have a presence in that segment. As this Forbes article suggests, 
SAP and Oracle have already ventured into the e-commerce domain through their acquisitions of Hybris and Art Technology Group, respectively, so the Demandware acquisition should help Salesforce continue to compete with its rivals.

As this graphic from the same Forbes article suggests, Salesforce has a steady lead over its competitors and this acquisition should further help them augment that lead.

In all, this acquisition will help Salesforce fill a major product gap and form a new product "Salesforce Commerce Cloud".

So, will Demandware really gain from this acquisition ?
On a lighter note, yes- they will gain $2.8 billion :-). But more seriously, the answer lies in the leveraging the success of Salesforce's Customer Success Platform. As this news suggests-
The Salesforce Commerce Cloud will be an integral part of Salesforce's Customer Success Platform, creating opportunities for companies to connect with their customers in entirely new ways. Salesforce customers will have access to the industry's leading enterprise cloud commerce platform, and Demandware's customers will be able to leverage Salesforce's leading sales, service, marketing, communities, analytics, IoT and platform solutions to deliver a more comprehensive, personalized consumer experience.

Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison who originally mentored CEO Marc Benioff. The book "Behind the Cloud" talks about how Ellison allowed Benioff, then an Oracle Executive, a rare privilege to start-up and work on Salesforce while being an Oracle employee. Interestingly, proved to be the case of child exceeding father's achievements as it created a new market of online enterprise software and became an undisputed leader. Now, Oracle is playing a catch-up game with Salesforce. Larry Ellison was recently quoted to be bullish about reaching the $10 billion mark, a first for cloud based software company, even before Salesforce. Such competition makes Salesforce's Demandware acquisition even more strategic and necessary for retaining the future leadership of the company.

Further studying this acquisition from Product Strategy perspective, there are 2 strategies that appear on surface. One is that of product differentiation and other that of product expansion. The case of Salesforce acquiring Demandware seem to be more of the latter. This acquisition is not really a solid differentiation for Salesforce as its competitors are already invading that space. As the book- "Product Strategies for High Technology Companies" states-
Create and launch a continuing series of products that open new markets and fuel rapid growth. This is the dream of most high-technology companies. Expansion into the new markets is sometimes necessary for survival.

The book further states the case of approaches followed by Lotus Development Corporation and Microsoft in 80s. While Lotus achieved immense success with its 1-2-3 spreadsheet application but it remained vertically oriented, achieved its growth with variations around one successful product. Microsoft's strategy, on the other hand, contrasted with that of Lotus as it pursued a strategy of growth by expansion into related markets (OS- client, server, Browser etc.) .

Taking a cue from this example, it is probably in the best interests of future growth and survival of both Salesforce and Demandware that they operate under a single direction and help each other grow.

Please do share your comments regarding this analysis.

Coming up next is a bit of commentary around Microsoft's recent acquisition. And no, its not about Microsoft-Linkedin.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fundamental Lessons I (re)learned from a Public Spotfix Activity

The last week was a memorable one for me, truly memorable. I was part of a group of volunteers from my organization, in collaboration with Ugly Indians, helped rescue a filthy part of our city and made it liveable again.
From Wikipedia - The Ugly Indians (TUI) are an anonymous group of motivated volunteers who clean Indian streets.TUI calls cleaning the street "Spot-fixing". TUI chooses small segments of road each week to clean: pavements piled up with plastic, defaced walls, footpaths rendered unusable by potholes as spot-fixing places. All tools, materials and instructions are provided on the spot. All spot fixes are self-funded and volunteers are requested to make a contribution towards material costs.

The Spotfix area chosen was at the start of Ulsoor Road, which is one of the prominent areas around the heart of city of Bengaluru. This Spotfix area we chose is surrounded by Army establishments. This event was scheduled from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM everyday from 24th-May to 26th-May.
This picture depicting before and after situation tells a lot about the transformation that was achieved in a record time of almost three hours by 40 plus volunteers-

As amazing as the transformation looks, we couldn't think but admire how much could we achieve in so less time. Before we started the volunteering act, the representative from The Ugly Indians during the address to the team said this- “How much work can you get done in 3 hours?”. He also referred to us in corporate life having been a part of many multiple hours meetings that achieved almost nothing productive. And he said that today, you will be surprised at what you will achieve as a group if you just stick to the tasks and work hard at achieving them.
When we looked at the place after the event, I personally didn’t believe that we would be able to turn it around I just 3 hours as well as it eventually became.
Bill Gates had once said “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” What this group of volunteers achieved in three hours was pretty much reverse of what Bill Gates seem to have been suggesting in this quote. We actually underestimated what we could achieve in a short span of three hours.

This transformation wasn't just physical in nature as it helped transform my mind and thoughts a bit and helped me relearn some of the aspects about leading the life, that i share below-

When faced with a mammoth task, always first look to break it into manageable chunks-
This is what Ugly Indians team seemed to have done when they came up with everything possible for this project ready. They had broken down tasks to the level of granularity that each person knew what was supposed to be done. Overall tasks that got accomplished were- cleaning the filthy areas (pulled 2 trucks worth of garbage) during shovels, brooms etc., painting of walls after brushing and cleaning, painting the pavements. All this couldn't have been done without simplifying the visibly complex chore into the chunks that each person could singularly accomplish.

When working in a team, focus more on giving back-
There were several instances where people just volunteered for the tasks without being told. I could see when some people were tried after hammering, digging the surface and resting- the other set of people just took over from where the previous set of people left, without being asked. That is the essence of true team work- understanding the pain of team members and silently offer self to the cause of helping others without expecting a sense of reciprocity.

Focus on Work, not who gets the credit:
 The Ugly Indian's guiding philosophy is summed-up in this Hindi language phrase- "Kaam chalu mooh bandh", which means- Stop Talking, Start Doing. And that is exactly what happened during those three hours. One of the most beautiful feelings that i encountered during this whole act was people just didn't worry about who got the credit. Everyone was so engrossed in getting the tasks during, almost in their zone, that helping others almost became a second nature for these 3 hours that we spent there. It was so refreshing to see "will i get credit for my work" mentality taking a backseat.

Do the difficult, more often:
We should find ways to squeeze in few difficult tasks, the tasks that we have never done before in our work days and life in general. Most of the folks who participated today hadn’t done spot fixing before, but at the end- almost everyone were happy seeing the outcome. All the participants felt happy going beyond their own comfort zone and achieving something tangible.

Focus on work, not on distractions:
The Ugly Indians representative, earlier in the day, shared that sometimes few folks who see people work in public try to rebuke and make comments. Given that it’s a public activity such reaction, though unwarranted, is somewhat not uncommon. He suggested us to just stay focused on work and politely ask the people to join and help make city clean. Though there were few people we encountered who acted like this, most of the passerby thanked us for our act of selflessness.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Book Review: Agile Product Development: How to Design Innovative Products That Create Customer Value

I picked up this book to gain a rich, practitioner’s perspective on the art of product design and development. I call this art because as any true science would propagate, there is no single way to develop the products that customers find valuable. Knowing Tathagat and having followed his work closely over the years, i knew that this book will have practical insights. The insights that are not overly academically oriented and are sought with rich practical Tech. industry experience that Tathagat brings to the fore.

After having read through the book, i can very convincingly say that- it was a time well spent reading the book. It was a time well spent on learning. It was a time well spent on getting that additional 1% perspective that can make a true difference to build products that positively influences the customer's experience.

Let me first say what this book is not. This book is not a primer on best practices. Infact, the way it is narrated- it mostly rejects the notion of best practices. Rather it preaches practitioners to be adaptable to situations and evolve the methodologies. Towards this, it gives insights into various frameworks, methodologies that can be leveraged based on the contexts and limitations under which given projects are being executed. This thinking is quite in alignment with the spirit of Agile manifesto.

Secondly, this book does not over-glorify any single phase of the entire process of Software development. It covers virtually all aspects of building (does not cover marketing/selling) products including Product management, design, development and testing. I could see this balance beautifully maintained throughout this book.

Thirdly, this book will not make you expert in each of the different phases in product development as quite visibly, that's not the intention here. But it gives you an end-to-end perspective of the entire life cycle of building the product, which not many books (atleast in my viewpoint) provides.

In order for me to convey what this book is all about, i would better say it with the quotes from the book that i shared (as tweets) while reading this book. Some of them are as below-

- Deliver Not documents … but the software! #AgilevsWaterfall
- Work estimation is not a mechanical activity. If anything, it is a social activity.
- An old saying goes that walking on water and working on product requirement are very easy— if only they were both frozen!
- Human-centered design is a mindset that recognizes we can build better products by learning from our users.
- “Design is a popular subject the face of increasing competition, design is the only product differentiation"- Deiter Rams, 1976
- "Develop customers in a similar fashion as we develop products—start with several hypotheses and rigorously test them..." - Steve Blank
- At last count, Google had done 178 acquisitions, Yahoo! 112, Cisco 170, and even a company as young as Facebook had done 53 acquisitions.
- Agile takes the idea of a cross-functional team to a “self-organizing team” which is beyond silos, adapts itself & acquire newer competencies
- There is a saying in the Swiss Army manual—when the map and the terrain disagree, trust the terrain!
- Processes are meant to serve people— not the other way round.
- For today’s businesses, adaptation is key. Process is secondary. And the specific flavor of process is a distant tertiary.
- "Agile process" is an oxymoron
- In the past man has been first. In the future the System will be first. —Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Mgmt, 1911
- There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement, otherwise you’ve made a discovery.
- "Reality is that following an agile process, or any process for that matter, makes us “un-agile."

In all, the book is quite rich in references- some of which i read during the course of reading and few others i have bookmarked for future. This book rightly promotes Agility as a mindset and set of values and practices rather than a written-in-stone process and it makes this point very well. Already in my re-read list.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Recent (bad) Experience of Fuel Theft by HP Petrol Pump

HP Petrol Pump at Koramangla
This is my story of catching the pilferage at HP Petrol Pump at Koramangla 3rd Block, Bengaluru. 

Below sequence of events are from Thursday, 3rd-Mar-2016, starting around 5:35 PM.

1.       I had visited HP petrol pump to fuel-up my vehicle. I always go for full tank while filling in Diesel and I fill the fuel roughly once per month.
2.       On the said day, Thursday, 3rd-Mar-2016, I went to this petrol pump in Bengaluru and asked for full tank.

.       As I drive a Scorpio, my average full tank bill hovers around INR 2300-2400. This time, the attendant filled up the fuel and stopped at INR 1986 and asked me whether I want to top-up. The top-up is a term that the fuel attendants use when the fuel being put in the tank touches the nozzle. The top-up means if I want to fill the fuel to the brim. I usually say No to this request and this is what I did that day too.
4.       Seeing the bill as only INR 1986 surprised me a bit especially given the fact that Diesel price was increased just a few days back on 1st-Mar. By this increase, I should have ideally got higher bill. Since this struck me odd, I checked my fuel indicator in the vehicle, which listed that its just about less than 3/4th filled.
5.       The fuel tank indicator clearly indicated that my tank was not full, which I had originally requested.
Litre reading is blank

6.       I asked the attendant if there is some problem. While I was asking this, I noticed that the measure on the pump only indicated the cost of fuel transaction i.e. INR 1986 but it didn’t indicate how many liters of diesel were consumed. (see the image on the side- the litres reading is blank )

Manual receipt hurriedly created
    .       While I gave my credit card for billing, I asked the attendant on how many liters worth fuel was put couple of times. I didn’t get a clear answer. Then suddenly, one of the attendants created a manual receipt written by hand that said 41 litres and INR 1986. He probably assumed that i will take this and go.

   .       I questioned him back on why the pump is not showing the liter reading as it normally does. Seeing me question so much, they started talking among themselves.

   .       One of the guys from HP who was attending, then attached the machine to the pump where nozzle
rests and generated the printed bill for my fuel transaction. And to my amusement and anger, it showed that the diesel consumed was 33.33 Ltrs (see the image) and the actual cost of transaction was INR 1616.838

After seeing this, I gave the HP attendants piece of my mind and made sure to tell each and every person at the petrol pump who were filling in the fuel on what these guys just did to me. In all the rush, the attendants, seeing me create a scene, quietly said Sorry to me and handed over the remaining INR 370. After handing over, again said sorry to me.
It’s such a shame that fuel companies do such pilferage and have such a corrupt mindset at the grass-root level.

Just wanted to share some of my learnings from this incident in the end-
1.       Please do check the fuel pump reading properly while the fuel is being filled.
2.       Please ensure that post fuel filling the fuel pump shows both liter readings and the amount of the bill. In my case the litres were clearly missing and that would have been intentionally done.

3.       Ask for the machine generated receipt. Do not go for handmade receipt.

    Update on 13th-Mar-2016:
    Thanks to my friends in Facebook for sharing this ordeal, to my surprise, this blog eventually reached the In-charge of the petrol pump under question and he updated the following as a comment in my blog on 9th-March, 2016.
     Anonymous Anonymous said...
     Dear Mr. Anju,
     Thanks for sharing cheating incidence. I request you provide your contact number.
     March 9, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      After a few exchanges over the comments, i requested Prakash to send me an email where i sent my contact details. I received the following email-

     Prakash did diligently call on the same day and even followed-up when i was not able to receive his call a couple of times. I spoke to him around 9:00 PM or so. He said the following to me-
1. He acknowledged why he was calling me.
2. He said that he has seen the CCTV footage since gave exact time and acknowledged that some of his staff has indeed cheated.
3. He further suggested me to come over to Petrol pump. He requested to come with an empty tank and said that he will ask the employees who cheated to completely fill the petrol talk. Post that he will ask them to pay me for full tank from their pocket and will fire me post it. He said to inform me before i came.
4. Though it sounded like a good gesture on his part but it lead to some unanswered questions in my mind like-
   - If he has seen the CCTV footage, then why is he asking me to come ? He can fire the employees just based on that.
   - Why is he asking me to come only empty tank (he suggested that 2-3 times).
   - Why should i trust him ?
5. I did question whether he was not in the petrol pump when the incident happened. He said that he had gone for lunch. It again sounded fishy on why would any go on lunch break close to 6:00 PM in the morning.
I eventually decided to stop following-up due to these open questions but learned a good deal from this experience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

35 points from my talk at Amadeus Inc.

I recently had an opportunity to talk at Amadeus Inc.'s internal learning forum. I got an invite to talk sometime in Nov. 2015 but some of the prior commitments made me to defer delivering the talk till 11th-Jan-2016. In the end, I was glad that I made it and enjoyed delivering the talk, which I titled as- "Taking the Plunge- Lessons Learned in an Evolving Testing Career". It was an hour long talk that I had themed more based on my experiences. In this session, I focused on some of the mistakes that i have made in my career and shared a perspective on how not to do stuff.

I have long observed that in most of the conferences, the professionals do well to share the innovation and creative stuff they are doing. There is nothing wrong in this sharing but what i find dearly missing is that there are almost no talks focused on sharing the mistakes that professionals have done. 

I do considering sharing mistakes as an apt means to contributing back to the profession because sharing them, in a way, makes sure that the next generation of professionals won't do the same mistakes as you have done and hence leading to betterment. One day, i do hope to see a conference organized in which people just share their mistakes and talk about how they went about correcting them. Always sharing achievements and super efforts is plain boring and if repeatedly done, becomes less inspiring too. Below is the summary of key points that i spoke.

Key points I shared:

Opening thoughts:
1. Taking the plunge means-
              Venture something, commit oneself, 
              To begin an unfamiliar venture, especially after hesitating
              To decide to do something
              To devote oneself to or undertake an activity earnestly or wholeheartedly
2. Two main ways to contribute back to one’s profession,
              Do innovations and share with others
              Do mistakes and share with others.
              Having been in conference circles for a long time, what I noticed was that people are sharing their innovations but they aren't doing as much on sharing the mistakes front. I just feel that has to change for the betterment of the profession.
3. The hard thing is not making mistake and correcting it. The hard thing is making mistake, correcting it and be open, bold and courageous to share the learnings with others.

Some of the factors that makes one great- professionally:
4. Greatness in testing or any other profession is not a matter of doing exceedingly well for a session or a day or a year. It’s a career thing.
5. “Will someone else (not you) attempt to acknowledge your own legacy?
6. A viable test for greatness- "Are you the reason people join Software testing?"

Basic thoughts on Software testing:
7. No Job is inferior or superior, only our thinking is.
9. Good engineers first understand the “why” and the “what”, bad engineers jump straight to the “how”.
9. Fact: Software testing is not complete till it is communicated
10. If I want to get better at testing, I must read and apply plenty of testing books alone. This a wrong notion.
11. Learn broadly, Apply specifically

People relationships do matter at work:
12. Good relationship tip: If you want something from someone, never reach out to them for the first time when you need that very thing.
13. Good relationship tip: Use Praise genuinely, intelligently and at the right time

What trends are impacting Software testing? (Will write separate blogs to explain these)
14. Amazon makes changes to production every 11.6 seconds on average in May of 2011. Facebook releases to production twice a day. Many Google services see releases multiple times a week, and almost everything in Google is developed on mainline. Continuous delivery is the buzz word.
15. One of the main uses of continuous delivery is to ensure we are building functionality that really delivers the expected customer value. The idea is that- even if you build a project on time, on budget and with high quality, it still isn’t sure to be a success if the customers don’t consider it valuable.
16. Gmail was launched in 2004 and was in beta till 2007. Users did bulk of testing.
17. Companies doing code reviews post push to production. It was unheard of earlier but is happening now. From Quora's engineering site-At Quora, we generally do post-commit code reviews. That is, the code goes out live in production first and someone comes and reviews the code later. To give you an idea of the scale, yesterday 48 of us pushed code 187 times in total. Post-commit reviews are great since they unblock the author to push code and move on to other tasks.
18. Software testing facing pressure from Revolutionary development methods like lean start-up, Rapid release velocity like in the case of Amazon, Architecture evolution like Platform style architecture, Software appearance evolution like the advent of invisible software, And the direction from visionaries.
19. Consumers are fast taking up the role of testers.
20. Automation becoming mandatory part of test job description.
21. Will software eat software testing ?
22. What got you here won't get you there ? The skills of past that made us successful may not make us successful in future too.
23. The core question everyone should ask is- “what am I doing to prepare myself, my practice, and my company for this new reality?”
24. If the company grows, then there may come a time later down the line when the company outgrows an employee because the employee still has the same skill set that he had when he first joined. Employees need to develop foresight to avoid this trap.

Manager-Subordinate relationship
25. Manager-Employee relationship is one of the most talked about, yet ironically one of the least understood relationship. Almost everyone you know is a boss to some people and subordinate to some other. We play dual roles in the organizations i.e. that of subordinate and that of a boss.
26. The two core questions- a) What does your boss owe you? b) What do you owe your boss?
27. When your consciousness and focus in any relationship is driven by what the other person owes you that what you owe that person, that is asymmetry. Asymmetry means you are giving less than what you take out of that relationship. This asymmetry exists in most of subordinate-employee relationship and is the root cause of strife and disappointment. Hence, it is important for any good subordinate to think about the boss’s needs as much as he or she would like the boss to think of his or her needs.
28. There is a great deal of literature available on how to be a good leader or a manager but very less information that exists on how to be a good subordinate.
29. Aristotle once remarked- “The true test of a first class mind is the ability to hold two diametrically opposite thoughts in the mind and yet be able to function.”

Thoughts on Career management:
30. The most dangerous phrase in the language is "we've always done it this way."
31. When was the last time you did something that completely changed the course of the way you test?
32. Can you write your own version of “Lessons learned in Software testing”?
33. We are becoming slightly obsolete every single day.
34. "Life is on an incline. You either go up, or you come down."
35. A normal career is around 30-35 years or around 8085 days or around 1820 weekends. One of the weekends just passed by, other one is coming. Respect time and how you use it, it’s just constantly passing by. Doing more in a stipulated time leads to satisfaction, Doing less leads to regret. Choose your path wisely!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do Leadership styles matter in forming Product Portfolios?

To find the context of this blog, please do read this one I published recently. To summarize, this is a part of knowledge sharing of my panel talk at GHCI. Just as a note of caution, please do not expect the below answers to be elaborate as these were conveyed in a time limit of 3-4 minutes. I have tried to recollect these to the best of my knowledge.

Jack Welch famously said that if a division at GE is not #1 or #2 in their industry, that division should be closed. He implemented that strategy at GE while he was CEO.  How important is leadership style in driving the necessary portfolio changes?

Let me talk first about three pioneering figures of our Industry. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Andy Grove. They make an interesting study because all three of them had their strong points and they had weaknesses too and their personality reflected in the organizations that they eventually led to glory.

Gates’ USP in his early days was the rate knowledge on how to program the early personal computers. And he was a true expert at that as he has been featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10000 hour rule needed to be expert at anything. During his early days (till around 90s), he was so involved in programming related work that he himself admitted that “I wouldn’t let anybody write any code. I went in and took every statement that anybody else had written in BASIC and rewrote it myself, just because I didn’t like the way they coded.” He used to astonish company’s engineers with his programming details. He soon realized that he and Microsoft couldn’t scale this way and hired the able people to lead in other major functional areas.

Steve Jobs’s focus on design was just as intense as Gate’s focus on software. As Gates went deep into the code, Jobs committed himself to user experience and design with maniacal depth. He oversaw every aspect of product design and would scrutinize everything, down to pixel level. There are stories around Jobs wanting scroll bars to be looking in a certain way, forcing the team to show multiple versions in a process that took almost six months.

Andy Grove, possibly lesser celebrated than Gates and Jobs but no less effective was passionate about disciplined thinking. He would challenge people’s thinking. Then he would probe all the way through a strategy and force people to really justify it. He also once famously said- “Execution is God”

So be it Gates’ penchant for technical details, Jobs’ for design and Grove’s focus on disciplined thinking, their personalities showed up in the way their organizations shaped up and that included how their products looked a fared. Their leadership styles driven by their primary personality preferences shaped up the products.

Michael Watkins in his book “The First 90 days” talks about STARS framework based on the business situation a particular business or for our discussion, a product is. Each letter except the letter “A” in the STARS is related to a business situation i.e. Start-up (when business starts), it either becomes Sustaining Success (after some efforts) or it closes (Shutdown/Divestiture). Once it’s a sustaining Success usually complacency sets in where it reaches the state of Realignment and post this stage, it is either back to Sustaining success or Turnaround. If we study this framework closely, each of the stages requires different leadership style. 

To quote the case of Apple, when Steve Jobs took over Apple in 1997- it was almost a dead business dearly in the need of being Turned-around. At this stage, he adopted a very hands-on approach to leadership and involved himself in taking tough decisions, culled projects, got into product design. He eventually made Apple, a sustaining success. On his departure, and taking over of Tim Cook, Apple has undergone certain realignment and Cook’s leadership style evolved accordingly. E.g. Steve Jobs used to call acquisitions as “Failure to Innovate” whereas under Tim Cook Apple has made more than 50% of its acquisitions. Tim Cook is more open to doing partnerships with IBM, Microsoft than probably Steve Jobs was and Cook even leveraged these partnerships to open-up enterprise market for Apple.

How can the Engineering function positively support the growth of Product portfolio?

To find the context of this blog, please do read this one I published recently. To summarize, this is a part of knowledge sharing of my panel talk at GHCI. Just as a note of caution, please do not expect the below answers to be elaborate as these were conveyed in a time limit of 3-4 minutes. I have tried to recollect these to the best of my knowledge. The below question was more meant for designer in the panel and I had follow-up comments covering the Engineering aspect-

Indra Nooyi is one of my role models and she appointed a chief design officer a couple of years ago who has a seat at the table for current and future portfolio decisions.
As a chief designer for SAP, what problem are you trying to solve when you look at the portfolio of technology products?

As I have observed, Design is a much younger profession if we compare it with Engineering. One may argue that design may have existed long back but its importance in the Information Technology profession was brought in arguably by Steve Jobs and his maniacal focus on design.

From an Engineering perspective, when I started my career one of the first applications that I worked on was built on- then modern and now obsolete- Three tier architecture. Three tier architecture was an improvement over the earlier architecture but it was still very locked and un-scalable. The key characteristics of the modern engineering architectures are that they are not monolithic (like their predecessors), they can be morphed, they embrace extendibility, they are modular. In today’s world, the architectures are usually referred to as “Platform-style architectures”. What is a Platform? Let me explain with an example-

iPhone is a fabulous, high quality, supremely designed product. For a moment, can you imagine the utility of an iPhone without App-store? It will still be a fabulous, high quality, supremely designed product but with a severely limited utility. The presence of app-store and its compatibility with iPhone enables Apple to “extend” the functionality of an iPhone. iPhone with app-store is really “iPhone with billions of features” considering each app as a feature. Could Apple have built all billion apps by itself ? Possibly not in one life time even with thousands of developers. So what’s happening here ? Apple has actually have been able to build an ecosystem of developers and consumers and been able to build a win-win scenario for all. Apple provides a “platform” for developers to build apps. Consumers who buy iPhones need apps that solve their problems and needs. Developers earn a good portion of what they gain from each app usage. Apple earns its chunk. And Consumers get an answer to their needs by apps.

This is all being made possible by embracing Platform style architectures. If, for a moment, we assume that iPhone was built on a three-tier architecture, could it have achieved extendibility? No, there was no way it would have allowed external developers to add features. Platform style architectures achieve that by exposing the APIs with the right amount of data. External developers can use these APIs and integrate their offerings. We live in a API economy, and this trend is going to stay for some time to come.

When we thinking of building something these days, we don’t say “Lets build products”. We say- “Lets build Platforms”. To conclude I would state the below quotes that was doing rounds, which reflect the power of platforms-

"Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening."