The DNA of a strategic technology partner
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The DNA of a strategic technology partner

Kenny MacIver – August 2014
Increasingly, CIOs are choosing to deal with a smaller number of truly strategic vendors. But among the leading enterprise IT companies, what makes one vendor stand out from the next? And what blend of corporate culture, approach to addressing customer challenges, corporate social responsibility commitments and stakeholder priorities make a difference in the minds of customers?

We asked Fujitsu’s head of Nordic, Conway Kosi — whose 26 years in IT has spanned four continents and some of the world’s largest suppliers — for a perspective on what makes the Japanese company stand out in the US-dominated field at the top of IT.

I-CIO: When it comes to engaging with customers, how does Fujitsu differentiate itself in the largely US line-up at the top of enterprise IT?

Conway Kosi (CK): Having worked at Fujitsu for nearly 10 years in different capacities, roles and geographies, I’ve been able to develop a good sense of the culture, the DNA of the company. And I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to a lot of different customers around the world to try to gain insight into what they see in Fujitsu and why they want to do business with us.

One of the core ideas we’re all aligned to is embedded in the brand promise — shaping tomorrow with you — which describes our way of doing business; building on our long-term relationships with our customers and society. What makes Fujitsu different is that we don’t deploy a kind of highly centralized, one-size-fits-all approach to our customers in the various markets in which we operate. We allow a great deal of management empowerment at a regional level.

Customers appreciate that, unanimously, and it’s a key reason why they like dealing with us. They see that Fujitsu can be agile when there is a challenge or an opportunity. We can respond fast because of the autonomy we have in the front line of our business.

I-CIO: Are those high levels of devolved decision-making not evident at some of the other major players at the top of IT?

CK: The other companies I worked for previously certainly don’t have that level of autonomy. That said, the challenge for Fujitsu is to ensure we still get all the benefits of being a global company too. While customers like the fact that we are autonomous locally and can respond and be agile, at the same time they are putting pressure on us, saying they also expect Fujitsu to demonstrate global best practice, to be able to coordinate IT capabilities around the world. They don’t want Fujitsu to be local in terms of what we sell or how we deliver our solutions.

That means we do need to have standardization, to go to market with the same product portfolio around the world. Those products should be invested in centrally and deployed globally, with each region drawing from that portfolio but with the opportunity to adapt at the edges for local market conditions.

“Customers like the fact we are autonomous locally and we can respond and be agile.”

The way we deliver services is of equal importance. Delivery models become very important because our global customers expect that consistency of delivery in Brazil, in Sweden, the US or wherever.

Of course, customers also expect that we are competitive in terms of pricing and competitive in terms of innovation. And we can only achieve that if we leverage our global capability. So for our delivery models, for example, we have to be able to take full advantage of low-cost centers — our Global Delivery Centers — for certain elements. And we need to be able to invest centrally in developing our offerings, continually providing a roadmap for new innovation and bringing those to market consistently around the world.

So the opportunity for Fujitsu is to strike that unique balance where we get the benefits of globalization but retain the ability to be agile locally for the customer.

I-CIO: Why wouldn’t some of Fujitsu’s rivals try to emulate that kind of ‘glocalization’?

CK: I think it comes down to the culture of the company. The basic assumption at Fujitsu is that there is trust in the management team that is put in place on the ground, locally. You trust they will do the right thing. In many other [leading IT] companies around the world, I don’t think there is as much general trust in the management teams, so there’s a feeling you have to centralize everything back to HQ, that nobody can make a decision unless it is reviewed a hundred times by corporate.

I-CIO: Almost all of the other companies in the top 10 of enterprise IT are headquartered in the US. Do you find that customers are keen to work with a more diverse set of companies or are they agnostic about the origins of their strategic partners?

CK: Some customers may be dissatisfied with the style of their existing suppliers and are looking for a refreshing alternative. And Fujitsu represents a refreshing alternative. It goes back to this idea of trust in the culture, and that is very much a Japanese thing. In Japan, there is trust that people are basically going to do the right thing, and that’s a good starting point. 

“There is very much a trust that people are basically going to do the right thing.”

That was never clearer to me than when I was living in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 and I witnessed how the Japanese people responded to that terrible disaster. I saw the way they mobilized and worked together for a common purpose. They were single minded — with no exceptions. I don’t know any other country that would have that same level of automatic response, where you just do the right thing. You think of others, you think of the community, you think of your country — almost at the expense of yourself. So I think that is part of the culture that has made its way into our company and which has driven us historically to where we are today

I-CIO: Your CTO Dr Joseph Reger makes a distinction between ‘normal IT’ and “responsible IT.”  How important is it for Fujitsu to be perceived as part of that responsible group of IT companies?

CK: Japan is one of the leaders in terms of environmental credentials and Fujitsu is widely seen as socially responsible. I think that resonates quite well with customers. What people don’t like is when you put up presentation slides and talk about what you are going to do, when you cant actually deliver. So it is important that when we make claims we are able to back them up.

“When some other companies say they’ll do something, you often have to take it with a grain of salt. We don’t oversell; we only commit when we know we can deliver.”

That’s another difference with Fujitsu: we don’t oversell; we only commit when we know we can deliver. When some other companies say something you often have to take it with a grain of salt. But customers generally see Fujitsu as a company that, when it says something, they can be pretty confident that it can do it. We are very, very aware that trustworthiness is key to our reputation, and we take a lot of precautions to make sure that we don’t overcommit. The danger is that when you are competing against companies that act in a different way, sometimes we don’t look as ‘flash,’ and therefore some customers will choose a different path

I-CIO: Does that relate to an appreciation that the company has a wider group of stakeholders, beyond shareholders and employees?

CK: You’ll hear society mentioned many, many times in all of our goals and Vision. We really aim to contribute to creating a more sustainable and better world and positive outcomes for society as a whole. Of course we have to deliver growth and a return as well but it can’t all just be about the money. Otherwise you kind of lose the human dimension of business.

I-CIO: Has there been a change during your decade at Fujitsu in terms of how the company is viewed by enterprise customers? 

CK: I would not say there has been a fundamental shift but, at the same time, we are starting to be seen more as a global company — by customers, analysts and internally.  [The company has grown geographically over three decades through a series of strategic acquisitions: ICL in the UK, Amdahl in the US, Siemens’ IT operation in Germany, and several others]. We are in a better position now than we ever have been in regards to our global product and service capabilities, with 25-plus Cloud Data Centers, more than 150 Fujitsu Data Centers and our Global Delivery Centers spread throughout the world — all coordinated and providing aligned services. So we’re definitely on that global journey but I don't think we have lost anything in terms of how customers see us as being locally responsive.

I-CIO: Is the creation of innovation that underpins the company’s ¥4.8 trillion ($46 billion) in revenues becoming equally global?

CK: There are some great examples of where we have been successfully deploying innovation around the world — mobile management and retail are just two. The US and the Nordic countries are the two major global centers of excellence for developing our Fujitsu Market Place solution for retail, where we have arguably the strongest portfolio in the sector. Nordic is also our center for mobile device management solutions for the rest of Fujitsu.

So this is the secret model of Fujitsu and it cuts to the heart of what we are talking about here: making sure we actually don’t drive everything from the center, with solutions development and centers of excellence spread around the world. And that distributed model is powerful, because it allows you to carry out innovation where it makes the most sense — working closely with your regions and directly involving your customers

 See more details about the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision
First published August 2014
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