Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is this a big O word ?

PORTFOLIO...what answer are you looking for? There are three "O"s in this word and it's not for you to go

Just completed portfolio management. In my context, I've heard this word umpteen times in my former organization, even before I came to this course. Back then, "portfolio" brings nightmares, and sends shivers. But if I were to bring back the real definition of portfolio to that same old context, this word would not have been mis-used excessively. What we've done in the past was just project management, or to a small extent, program management. Portfolio management is bigger (nothing to do with the three big "O"s). It involves the clear understanding of corporate or BU's strategies ; and putting processes in place, for IMPLEMENTION of these strategies to operations. Yes, it sounds so simple but how tough is it to do. Typically, portfolio management will be some-BODY in senior leadership role, "located" at levels where important funding decisions/allocations are made, know the corporate environment inside-out (outside-in), able to set criteria and metrics to prioritize projects selection, handling resource vs capacity demands in projects, and finally be able to optimize the mix and balance of projects in the portfolio so that strategies work out to what they are supposed to deliver. Do not blame portfolio management team when projects fail due to poorly-set strategies, since portfolio management team only takes care of the inputs (strategies) that are already designed, and their job is to realize these strategies down to operations level. They do not let projects drive strategies (it should not have happened in the first place). So, view portfolio management as a "bridge" between those setting strategies, and those down at operations. An unorthodox way to test the effectiveness of your portfolio management team is to give it a bad strategy and observe the operations outcome.

Who dares to try ?

I love the M&Ms exercise in the course! No pun intended. M&Ms, as in the melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hands chocolates. How creative is the Stanford-IPS team in using M&Ms, to bring across some lessons on portfolio management. I like...

Did I also mention before I've got a "No Asshole Rule" eraser from one of the classes? I'm not trying to be rude, but the word "asshole" was used openly by the instructor in one of the classes. To be him for a second, how many assholes are there in your organization, and how many have you worked with ? Good luck !

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What is unimaginable these days

Think it's time for someone(not me, of course) to compile cases of all the buy-outs (mainly by equity firms) and M&As, that have happened in the semiconductor industry in these few years, especially recently. Will be hard to keep pace with who's still there and who's not, if the action and movements continue for a while. Facts or rumors...Intel to buy Nvidia ? Equity firms target Cypress Semiconductor ? Freescale considered buying Philips Semiconductor(now known as NXP) ?

In an emerging sector, quality is often defined as functionality and reliability. But as a sector matures, it's really "give me exactly what I want exactly when I want it !!!" ( many times have you heard this from your boss ?). So, it seems that speed, convenience and customization are shifting the 40- to 50-ish mindset in the electronics industry. Is a unimaginable* new industry going to evolve from here ?

Well, I like to relate this to a piece I just came across about tech gadgets that are "banned" from the United States. That article tried to pin down on why some innovation products such as super-lightweight laptops from Japan and feature-packed smartphones from Europe, are not making it (at least for now) onto the U.S. retail shelves. Then you begin to question. Isn't U.S. the haven for all things creative and innovative? And then, you start to understand, it just works out to a different business and organization model in each country (and culture). For instance, in Japan, a majority of the cutting-edge innovation occurs due to consumer demand, while in the U.S., they're mainly driven by business needs (don't forget, many large retailers in the U.S. have to answer to shareholders...not only to consumers!). Also, the inherent infrastructure in one geographic location may not support cutting-edge products. So, when it does not make business sense to introduce (or import) high-end products, it just does not make sense.

Ok, can you see the linkage between the 2 different news snippet I've put up here ?

* This is what I called unimaginable...the Fish-N-Flush Toilet