UPDATE: Join me @SXSW – March 11, 12:30-1:30 PM at the Hilton in downtown Austin, Texas. I’ll be speaking about how “Robots can Restore our Humanity.”

Robots and AI can be powerful catalysts to redefine work in ways that will restore our humanity. Today’s work is tightly specified, highly standardized & tightly integrated – something that algorithms can do much better than humans. As machines take over this work, we may have an opportunity to redefine work around things that are uniquely human: imagination, creativity, curiosity and emotional and social intelligence. There will be no shortage of this kind of work given our ever expanding desire for products and services that can help us achieve more of our potential. But the transition may be painful as our institutions will need to go through a profound transformation to make this possible. More info >>

If you want provocative perspectives and deep business insight for your next business gathering, we should talk.

Delivering the keynote presentation at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2003

Your participants are becoming more demanding – their time is in ever shorter supply and they want a tangible return on their attention. I speak on a broad range of topics regarding the interplay between business strategy and information technology, helping executives to understand how to create more business value.


Businesses need creative new approaches to generate more value with fewer resources – cash, assets and talent. This is the broad theme underlying all my speaking topics. As competitive pressures intensify, management must focus on some basic principles:

Anticipate threats, but shape opportunities

Work two time horizons simultaneously – 10 years and 6-12 months – and don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the years in between

Move incrementally with explicit and aggressive performance milestones at short intervals – avoid “big bang” initiatives with long lead-times

Reduce costs relentlessly, especially at the edge of the enterprise where connections are proliferating with business partners

Couple focus with flexibility – placing many small bets dilutes impact, instead of magnifying impact

Unbundle the enterprise to gain more focus – concentrate on the 20% of the assets (products, customer relationships, business processes, people) that generate 80% of the economic value

Design loosely coupled business processes and organizations to create more flexibility and enhance innovation

Use economic incentives and trust-based relationships to access and mobilize third party resources – this is ultimately the key to deliver more value with fewer resources

Develop creative marketing approaches to increase return on attention for customers

Debottleneck the organization to facilitate even more rapid movement towards long-term goals

Focus on a few operational metrics to measure success

Sample Topics

These are some examples of the topics that I can address either in presentations to business gatherings or in seminars for management teams:

Back to Strategy – Has Anything Changed?
In the peak of the dot com bubble, business strategy seemed a quaint relic from the past. Business strategy is now clearly back with a vengeance. The real question is: does business strategy have to adapt to changing needs? I focus on underlying economic forces and maintain that a different approach to strategy is required in times of high uncertainty. Drawing on examples from a variety of industries, I show where traditional strategic principles still apply and where they need to change. Most importantly, I lay out a basic approach to strategy that promises to improve both near-term economic performance and long-term advantage.

Harnessing the Real Economic Value of Offshoring
Companies are becoming increasingly intrigued with the potential of offshoring. They are also rightly concerned about strategic and executional risks – everything from protection of intellectual property to loss of control over key operations. Most companies view offshoring choices much too narrowly. As a result, they create even more risk and forego significant potential rewards. With the right approach, offshoring can become a significant operational and strategic weapon, with potential for significant profits. The stakes are high and the game is picking up speed – are you playing to win?

Pursuing a New Innovation Agenda
Companies are beginning to realize that cost-cutting delivers diminishing returns. Executives are reassessing their innovation needs. Traditional forms of innovation – product innovation and managerial innovation are necessary but not sufficient. Growing competitive pressures require a more aggressive institutional innovation across multiple levels of business activity. In the process, the boundaries and even the role of the firm will be redefined. Rather than attempting “big bang” transformations, executives will be far more successful pursuing a pragmatic approach, focusing on delivering tangible operational performance improvement in short-term waves of initiatives.

Tackling the Shadow Economy of the Enterprise
Look around any large enterprise today and take a hard look at where operating expense and assets concentrate. Two areas emerge: local workgroups scrambling to address exceptions in our internal processes and in processes encompassing our business partners. These activities operate in the shadow because we prefer to believe that our expensive systems have automated, or at least standardized, the processes that run our business. By focusing on how to make the people in this shadow economy more productive, we can unleash significant new economic value. This may in fact be the fertile field where the next wave of learning, business innovation and performance improvement will take shape.

Does IT Matter?
A backlash against IT is sweeping through executive boardrooms, influenced in part by a provocative article entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter” in Harvard Business Review.  Executives are much more skeptical than they were in the late 1990’s about the power of IT to generate meaningful strategic advantage or even acceptable return on investment. They acknowledge that it has become a necessary cost of doing business, but their objective is to minimize spending in this area as much as possible. I address this skepticism head on and maintain that continuing innovations in IT are actually expanding, rather than diminishing, the potential for strategic differentiation. I pinpoint where this potential resides today and outline what companies need to do in order to realize this potential – and generate superior financial returns.

The Changing Role of Outsourcing
Outsourcing has evolved significantly over the past several decades. Originally viewed as a way to reduce costs and leverage assets, outsourcing is now becoming a catalyst for specialization and competitive differentiation. As this evolution continues, the techniques required to manage outsourcing relationships are changing. Outsourcing also poses fundamental strategic choices. Few companies are prepared to exploit the capabilities available through outsourcing. This presentation highlights both the potential pitfalls and the opportunities created by outsourcing.

Cutting Costs: Turning a Necessity into an Opportunity
All businesses are being forced to cut operating costs just to stay in business. Most companies understandably approach this task with dread and a defensive mindset. The result? Cost reductions occur in painful increments, with each slice presented as the last, only to lead to the next slice. I make the case that management should approach cost reduction as an opportunity to fundamentally rethink the business, rather than trying to do the same thing with fewer resources. Instead of simply shrinking the business, management should be searching for ways to save money in the near-term while positioning the company for aggressive growth. I outline a practical game plan for proceeding, drawing on lessons learned from other companies.

Leveraging Assets: How to Do More with Less
Most companies today are taking a sharp look at all operating expenses in an effort to increase efficiency and financial returns. Asset investment tends to get far less attention, except to clean up excess inventories and squeeze receivables. I show how new generations of technology can radically reduce asset investments while at the same time delivering increasing value to the customer. Exploiting the potential of this technology requires a very different management mindset, but can lead to much higher near-term profitability and create a platform for long-term growth.

Pragmatic Technology Strategies
Harnessing the Power of New IT Architectures Businesses are just beginning to understand the economic potential of a fundamental new technology architecture, enabled by Web services. I explore both the long-term economic potential of Web services technology and the pragmatic adoption approaches that can help businesses get near-term cost savings while managing risk. Using examples of leading enterprises that have become early adopters of Web services technology, I present specific principles management can apply to navigate safely through the adoption process.

Focus on Fundamentals, not Fads
The Key to Managing in Uncertainty We have never experienced a more volatile economic or competitive environment. In times of high uncertainty, companies understandably tend to get carried away by a dizzying array of management fads. The dot com bubble is only the most recent example – remember the conglomerate craze of the 1970’s? To avoid distraction, management must stay focused on the economic fundamentals shaping our business landscape. I discuss these economic fundamentals and explore the implications for who will make money in the future. Building upon these economic fundamentals, I propose a set of guidelines to keep companies firmly focused on profitable business initiatives.

The Evolving Role of Brand
Delivering More Value to the Customer Customers wield increasing power in markets today. Rather than abating, this trend will only become more pronounced over time. To survive in these markets, companies will need to offer a new kind of brand promise. This brand promise creates an opportunity to build a more lasting relationship with customers and generate more value both for the customer and for the business. At the same time, it requires wrenching changes for companies, including a much higher degree of collaboration with business partners. I present a compelling rationale for a new brand promise, discuss the changes required to deliver the new promise and describe the approach companies can take to implement these changes. Using examples from both consumer and business markets, I demonstrate the power of the new brand promise and the rewards it can generate.

Collaborative Business Processes – Start Simple and Stay Profitable Enterprises need to coordinate business processes across multiple companies in order to become even more efficient. A very different management approach will be required to coordinate business processes spanning multiple companies versus business processes that reside within a single enterprise. I focus on the key differences in management approach, using examples from companies that are leading the way in managing collaborative business processes. I demonstrate that these changes cannot be implemented overnight, but instead must be carefully staged to reduce business risk and increase the potential for substantial economic returns.

Speaking Engagement Examples

World Economic Forum Davos Annual Meeting – 1997-2003 and 2006 – Speaker and Panelist IT/Telecoms Industry Partner Meeting – 2005 – Speaker PC Forum North America – 1997 – Panelist Europe – 1997 – Panelist North America – 2002 – Panelist North America – 2003 – Panelist North America – 2005 – Speaker American Banking Association – 1999 – Speaker

AMR Research – Annual Executive Conference – 2004 – Speaker Aspen Institute Roundtable on Information Technology – 2001 – Session Leader Roundtable on Information Technology – 2004 – Session Leader Roundtable on Information Technology – 2005 – Session Leader

Association of National Advertisers – 1999 – Speaker

Banking Administration Institute – 2000 – Speaker

BEA – CIO Advisory Forum – 2003 – Speaker

BMC – Board Of Advisors – 2002 – Speaker

Build Brand Value – 2000 CEO Forum – 2000 – Speaker

Business 2.0 – Rules and Tools Conference – 2001 – Speaker

Business Process Sourcing Conference – 2005 – Speaker

Comdex 2001 Technology Summit – 2001 – Speaker

Churchill Club – 2004 – Panelist

Clinical Trials Congress – 2006 – Speaker

Consulting Summit – 2005 – Speaker

Crimson – Investor Conference – 2004 – Speaker

Dell – IT Leadership Conference – 2004 – Speaker

Direct Marketing Association – 1999 – Speaker

Fortune Innovation Forum – 2005 – Panelist

Grocery Manufacturers of America – 1999 – Speaker

Harvard Business School Burning Questions – 2000 and 2002 – Panelist Innovative Leadership Forum – 2002 – Panelist Bottom Line Technology – 2002 – Speaker

Hewlett Packard Corporate Leaders Forum – 2004 – Speaker Asia Pacific Manufacturing Symposium – 2004 – Speaker

Innovation Summit [AlwaysOn] – 2003 – Panel Moderator

Informatica – International User Conference – 2004 – Speaker

Infosys – Client Executive Summit – 2005 – Speaker

Knowledge Facilitation Conference – 2005 – Speaker

McKinsey – Global Partners Conference – 2005 – Speaker

Microsoft Executive Circle Forum – 2002 and 2003 – Speaker CEO Summit – 2003 – Speaker CEO Summit – 2004 – Panelist CEO Summit – 2005 – Session Leader VC Summit – 2005 – Speaker Global Leaders Summit – 2003 – Panelist Executive Circle Forum – 2002 and 2003 – Speaker Web Services Seminar – 2003 – Speaker Architects Council – 2003 – Speaker

with Michael Dell at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2003

Marketing Leadership Council – 2001 – Speaker Marketing on the Internet – 2001 – Speaker

Marketing Science Institute – 2000 – Speaker

Milken Institute – Global Conference – 2001 – Panelist

Norwest Venture Partners – Forum – 2005 – Speaker

Open Network For Commerce Exchange – 2003 – Speaker

Personalization Summit San Francisco – 1999 – Speaker Boston – 2000 – Speaker London – 2000 – Speaker San Francisco – 2000 – Speaker

Research Board – 2003 – Speaker

SAP Business Forum New York – 2003 – Speaker San Francisco – 2003 – Speaker

Scala – Corporate Client Council – 2002 – Speaker

Securities Industry Association – Technology Management Conference – 2000 – Speaker

Spacenet – Executive Summit – 2004 – Speaker

SRC – Annual User and Partner Conference – 2003 – Speaker

Stanford University – Globalization of Services Conference – 2005 – Moderator

Supernova 2003 – Panelist 2004 – Speaker

United Arab Emirates GCC E-Commerce Conference – 2005 – Speaker

Vortex – 2004 – Panelist

Wharton Forum on Electronic Commerce – 2000 – Speaker Winners and Losers in the E-Commerce Shakeout – 2000 – Speaker The Internet, E-Strategies and Virtual Communities – 2001 – Speaker Fellows Program – 2000-2002 – Speaker

Young Presidents Organization 1999 – Panelist 2005 – Panelist