Archive for February, 2011

Turbulent times –a seed bed for creative growth

Friday, February 18th, 2011
This week GSMA Mobile World Congress, Europe’s premier mobile telecom and internet industry conference took place in Barcelona. As the industry shared the latest gadgets, technology and service developments, it was also trying to determine the real significance of the Nokia Microsoft partnership.

It is clear that as mobile telecoms and the internet come together, nothing is guaranteed. Two of the most successful players of both industries have struggled for relevance in the converged space of the mobile internet and smartphones. This converged space and the impact that it has on society has been our focus at KeySo Global for the last 3 years, and we refer to it as Digital Life. This phenomenon is spreading virally and facilitating increasing globalization of politics, economics, education and societal change.

Efficient real time communication and “anytime anywhere” access to information sources are fueling a broader societal perspective and increasing peoples’ expectations for leaders to solve the issues that negatively impact their lives, especially among the younger generation. The impact has stunned industry veterans like Intel’s Paul Otellini: “I would not have thought that technology would change politics or democracy. But it changed the American electoral cycle, it just changed two countries and it’s not going to stop there. It’s a liberating technology.”

2011 has continued to provide a constant stream of 24 /7 TV images and online reports of the problems in many countries such as Tunisia, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and most recently Bahrain. Given this barrage, it’s difficult to deny that we’re living in uniquely turbulent times. Citizens in all countries have gained a louder and more powerful collective voice which is generating real and intense pressure on incumbent leaders to alter their policies or step down.

Since 1989 and the deconstruction of both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire, the number of democracies in the world has increased significantly, according to George Mason University. Some observers have noted the Middle East was an outlier in the trend to democracy and that the current events are evidence of the continued enlightenment and alignment of the global population. Others highlight the impact of a connected and educated younger generation and an empowered middle class. Both these factors are relevant but probably two of the most significant aspects of change are the democratization of information and the mobilization of people that these converged technologies enabled. Despite the desperate efforts of some existing governments to curtail, block and usurp access to these converged services, the inevitable outcome could not be prevented.

Returning to the question of the significance of the Nokia and Microsoft partnership – the deciding factor will be their ability to quickly unify their product strategy and collaboratively re-enter the market. As the pace of change accelerates they will be shooting from behind at a rapidly moving target. Compounding these challenges will be the added distraction of finding synergistic thinking among many different egos, overcoming turf wars and posturing which could further hinder the ability of both companies to collaborate effectively and innovate competitively. Nothing is guaranteed in this converged space but if these two can harness their combined depth of knowledge with proactive interaction with consumers and enterprise customers, they have the potential to win.

If you would like to learn how open innovation can be leveraged through internal & external knowledge networks and how to take advantage of Digital Life opportunities, contact us at +1 847-478-1633 or visit our website at

Nokia and Microsoft – A window to heaven or 7 years bad luck?

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

In January at CES (the Consumer Electronic’s Show in Las Vegas) CNBC’s star reporter “Money Honey” Maria Bartiromo asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer “What are you going to do with your $50 billion of cash? Are you going to buy Nokia or RIM?” Ballmer, of course, refused to comment. The consensus is, however, that Microsoft’s options for succeeding in the smartphone market are declining rapidly.

This week there is news that Stephen Elop, Nokia’s new CEO, has determined he and the company are on a “burning platform” and tomorrow is likely to announce a restructure of Nokia’s executive board, making it less Finnish; but more significantly, he is looking to make the company more successful, specifically in North America. Additionally, he is reportedly looking for a new head of operating systems, as well as a new head of research and development with strong software capability. This reorganization will be a major shakeup for Nokia. The question is (as was pointed out in a previous blog) will this consensus driven company that historically succeeded because of continuity of leadership make this transition, not only in strategy but culture as well?

Is this a marriage of convenience or desperation? Both Microsoft and Nokia are struggling in the smartphone arena, particularly in North America, where the latest Comshare subscriber data shows that Nokia has only 7.0% of the overall subscriber base and has no presence in the smartphone platform market. Microsoft is also desperately hanging on to 8.4% of Smartphone platform subscribers; this is compared to RIM that slipped to 31% under pressure from a rapidly accelerating Android and a solid Apple performance.

The scene is certainly set for some bold moves from a market share and business survival perspective, and this leads me to think about the outcome of potential acquisition activity. In reality the key question that should be asked is not “what are you buying?” but “what would the purchase develop into? “

The real issue is not about the strategic benefits and opportunities of such a merger, but whether or not the cultures of the companies can be positively blended. Does Steve Ballmer, in cooperation with ex Microsoft exec Steve Elop, have the stamina and fortitude to work with the Finn’s, where collaboration is more than just a word – it’s a national, cultural and management style? This culture is totally unlike most American “command and control” multinationals, and certainly nothing like Microsoft.

The probability is that tomorrow Stephen Elop will announce a close partnership with Microsoft on Windows 7 and next generation smart device operating systems. This will allow both companies to gain experience of each other, similar to an engagement. The final outcome of this is experimentation and open to speculation, but the reality is that, together or apart, the 2 companies are unlikely to be the dominant forces they were or currently are.

Contact us at KeySo Global if you’re interested in learning about the implications of digital life trends on your business. Call us at +1 847-478-1633 or go to our website at

Why a digital life crisis is not just about the device!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Sometimes it takes a crisis to make you recognize why some systems fail and why, in today’s digital life, a holistic problem solving approach is essential. It started yesterday when the washing machine overflowed, flooding the laundry room and pouring gallons of water into the finished basement below.

As we dried everything out, I was already planning how to prevent this happening again. It suddenly struck me that a washing machine is not just a stand-alone device but an integral part of a household system. I’d never really thought through this particular system before, although our focus at KeySo Global is to help our clients view problems from a holistic perspective, so I did some research.

According to insurance industry statistics, leaking washing machines account for billions of dollars a year in property damage claims – not to mention the immeasurable distress caused by destroyed family memorabilia. I then started thinking about house design. Why can’t laundry rooms be designed like shower rooms, able to contain and drain water? Why don’t warm air heating systems have central drainage points, in the event that they become filled with water? Why isn’t there a central sensing system that warns of flooding and subsequently cuts off the power and water? The reason that problems occur is that the system is designed with a silo mentality, and nothing is seen as interconnecting.

Ironically, the same day, I read about General Electric’s ZigBee enabled smart-grid washing machines. These machines can wirelessly communicate with a “smart meter” to save money for the consumer by choosing the optimal time of day to switch on automatically. Excellent silo concept but, back to my problem, not ideal if the machine is going to malfunction.

As Steve Jobs at Apple has figured out, it’s not just the application of technology to a device, or even the connecting of devices and services that appeal to the consumer. From my perspective as a consumer, it’s being able to solve fundamental systems’ problems in a way that adds value, instead of additional drama, to my overall experience.

Based on my most recent triage experience, I’d think twice before signing up for a smart device that may save cents when there’s no “smart system” to monitor the machine, alert you if it malfunctions and at the same time switch off the power to prevent water flowing to the machine. This would be a smart system that could add value to my digital life by saving me dollars and cherished memories!

If you’re interested in a holistic solution to your business problems, contact us at KeySo Global and we’d be happy to help. Call us at +1 847-478-1633 or go to our website at