Sections

Acquisition Strategy: 4 Reasons Tech Companies Get Acquired

Nick Petri

Forecasting acquisitions in the technology world is an inexact science. And that’s putting it nicely.

Acquisition Strategy: 4 Reasons Tech Companies Get AcquiredOccasionally they make sense, like when Amazon purchased Kiva Systems in order to absorb a technology they already used extensively in their warehouses.

But acquisitions are rarely so obvious. The bulge-bracket technology companies that do most of the acquiring often seem to be playing pin the tail on the donkey in their acquisition strategy, without rhyme or reason to anyone outside their four walls. This can be extremely frustrating for an entrepreneur or VC looking to sell their company.

That doesn’t mean all is lost. A deeper dive into recent M&A activity reveals common themes that shed light onto the rationale of big companies looking to make acquisitions:

1) The biggest enemy of your biggest enemy is your biggest friend

Taken out of context, Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer in June 2012 may have seemed like throwing darts at a board. They hadn’t been very active in the social space, and Yammer had almost nothing to do with Microsoft’s core products: Windows and Office.

It did, however, make a great deal of sense in the context of Yammer’s competitive marketplace. Yammer’s biggest competitor, Salesforce Chatter, is a major differentiator driving Salesforce’s domination of rival CRMs. For Yammer, by targeting their biggest competitor (Salesforce’s) biggest competitor, MS Dynamics, Yammer was able to find a partner who badly needed their technology for competitive purposes.

2) New entrants prefer to buy rather than build

The aforementioned Microsoft made a different type of acquisition in 2008 when they bought flight cost predictor Farecast for about $100m. Unlike Yammer, the acquisition wasn’t in direct response to a competitive threat. Rather, they were getting ready to launch Bing and knew they needed to make a splash to get entrenched Googlers to give them a chance. Since their developers’ hands were probably full building the core Bing product, the idea of buying a side feature that can differentiate their product was especially attractive.

3) Businesses in transition are always looking for a boost

Similarly, old-guard businesses looking to redefine themselves are often willing to part with resources for the right acquisition. Dell wasn’t exactly a new entrant into the enterprise software space, but their well deserved reputation as primarily a hardware company has made it difficult for them to catch up in the software space organically. Their combination of inadequate in-house development resources, a large pile of cash, and a sense of urgency to show their shareholders progress towards a new Dell, all contributed to their purchase of Quest Software in July of 2012.

4) Public companies love playing musical chairs

One week after Dell’s acquisition of Quest, Oracle made news with another acquisition, this one of Involver, a SaaS social media manager. Hot on the heels of Vitrue’s acquisition, also by Oracle, and Buddy Media’s by Salesforce, the game of musical chairs in that industry had officially begun. It wasn’t long before Google followed suit with its acquisition of Wildfire.

Big public companies, by nature, are extremely conservative in their decision-making. No executive wants to be the only one of his or her peers that missed out on a big trend or new technology. This can work against you if your company is in a quiet space, but it can also work in your favor when the music starts in your space. Pay close attention to who is buying your competitors, and when activity starts accelerating, find the company without a seat.

***

Will you ever be able to completely understand the acquisition strategy at a big public tech company? Of course not. Like a complex weather pattern, the politics behind these decisions get exponentially more difficult to project the further out.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a fruitless exercise to think about the different reasons a larger company might want to purchase yours.  Hopefully, these four angles will serve as a valuable starting point to build your list of potential acquirers.

Image provided by: Wikipedia

Comments

Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.

Comments

Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.

Comments

Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

Tags:

High Tech Blazes The Digital Transformation Trail

Dirk Wenzel

Digital transformation is not just a new technology trend; it is fundamentally changing how business is done across all industries. From product innovation to customer engagement and enterprise productivity, technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and real-time, Big Data analytics as well as social, mobile, and cloud computing, are changing every aspect of business.

The high-tech industry is playing a unique role, not just as an enabler of digital transformation, but also as a potential disrupter of all industries. 70% of all high-tech revenue will be directly related to other industries adopting the digital economy by 2020. Companies in every industry use technology to reimagine their core business processes. This makes it harder to see where high tech ends and other industries begin. New products and business models rely on technology to deliver benefits. Those benefits help them to leapfrog the competition as customers choose to buy outcomes rather than products.

Connected things enable new business models

According to IDC, the IoT will reshape almost every aspect of business. This change includes product design, marketing strategies, executive decisions, customer engagement, and after-sales service. In this projected model, every company will need to become the focal point of a broad ecosystem. This business network will enable close collaboration among all participants using mobile, analytics, and the cloud in a secure environment.

Examples of outcome-based business models already exist across both consumer and B2B companies. Lexmark, for example, recognized that customers want prints, not printers. It sells its products as a service and billing is based on usage, not the hardware that was used to create the print. But the company took it further. With the acquisition of smaller software companies, it is now able to manage the entire document flow, from paper to digital documents that are fully integrated into the back-end business processes.

Research in the Harvard Business Review shows that nearly 60 percent of the buying process happens before initial contact with a sales rep. “First Mile” technology helps companies connect with potential customers during the time before they engage with the company.

The same technology helps to onboard customers, admit patients, process claims, or simplify any other process that requires integration between systems. The result is closer relationships with customers and a much deeper understanding of the customer’s needs and interests.

It might appear that Lexmark’s business is selling printers. Yet the real backbone of the First Mile offering is software, not hardware. In this case, the hardware is acting as an intermediary by collecting information. It then passes the information to other systems.

A connected value chain

The “connected home” is one of the earliest examples of how companies are using high tech to reimagine their business processes.

Google’s Nest connected thermostats keep consumer’s home comfortable. They also connect consumers and energy companies to find the best balance between comfort and economy.

Emerson ComfortGuard services use sensor-equipped HVAC equipment to track performance. When the sensor detects it’s time for service, it notifies the consumer using email. It understands whether the equipment needs a simple filter change or a part replacement. Using predictive analytics, the service can even go a step further. It can autonomously schedule a maintenance appointment before the equipment even malfunctions and it connects to an approved technician list.

These simple examples illustrate how technology is changing basic processes, and this is only the beginning. Connected cars, connected cities, connected machines, and wearables – smart devices have become so powerful and so small that they will be everywhere, enabling a complete new world of tracking, measurements, and monitoring of situation- and environment-specific parameters. Reported in real time, combined with powerful analytics and integrated into core business processes, will enable fact-based, situation-specific decision-making in the moment.

These success stories show that winners in every industry are early adopters of high-technology enhancements to traditional products offerings that enable digital transformation to meet customer needs. In many cases, these new products fulfill needs that customers may not have recognized until they saw the product.

Regardless of the industry, high technology in the form of mobile access, connected devices, sophisticated analytics, and software is blazing the trail to digital transformations and reimagined products and services.

In upcoming blogs we will take a deeper look into digital transformation and how it impacts business models, supply chain networks, customer engagement, as well as talent that is needed to make it all happen.

For more information on how digital transformation is impacting all aspects of high-tech business, please visit here.

Comments

Dirk Wenzel

About Dirk Wenzel

Dirk Wenzel is the Head of Global High Tech Solution Marketing at SAP. He has over twenty years’ experience in software, management, consulting and the high tech industry, with deep expertise in business development, operations and marketing with a focus on business transformation and technology.

IoT In Discrete Manufacturers: Create A Live Business Operation Around Connected Products

Kai Goerlich

While discrete manufacturing is used in a diverse range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, defense, construction, industrial machinery, and high tech, all of them face common and tough challenges such as higher resource volatility, more competition, increasing customer expectations, and shorter innovation cycles.

According to a study by a Roland Berger (see chart), product complexity has increased dramatically in the past 15 years. Manufacturers have to cope with two overlapping trends: the variety of products is constantly increasing and has more than doubled in the past 15 years, and, in parallel, product lifecycles have gotten about 25% shorter. These factors are putting an increasing pressure on margins, on supply and procurement systems, and on overall business models. According to Roland Berger, managing this complexity could reduce costs by roughly 3% – and certainly digitization can help improve this margin.

rolandberger

The threats and potentials of digitization

Adapting to the age of hyperconnectivity is a matter of life and death for the majority of companies, according to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit. More than half of enterprises feel very strong competitive pressure from digital offerings by their traditional competition, established companies using digital to enter their market, and digital startups. Certainly, the competition is not waiting, and neither will today’s well-informed digital customers, who want more choice, better customization, and more information around the buying process. While digitization might add another disruptive dimension to an already rising complexity, discrete manufacturers are seeking the benefits of digitization. They are already proactively exploring the use of the IoT to better connect their supply chains, assets, and products, according to an IDC white paper, The Internet of Things and Digital Transformation: A Tale of Four Industries, sponsored by SAP.

SAP_IoT_discretemanu_2016

Most manufacturers start with less complex projects, such as enhanced visibility or tracking, and progress to more sophisticated processes that require automated or predictive workflows, according to IDC. The findings of the study suggest that companies should start their IoT projects with the overarching goal of a live business operation already in mind. By combining three IoT use cases for manufacturing, i.e. connecting products, creating a connected shop floor with customization, and extending digital business models (see chart), companies will create a competitive business operation that fully exploits the digital opportunities.

Connecting products to improve innovation

Using IoT for innovation is a highly underestimated potential of digitization. A significant percentage of new products fail, and the associated R&D and marketing costs are lost. Customers already expect their products to come with a certain degree of interactivity and this demand will certainly grow in the future. According some estimates on the adoption of connected technology by consumers, the ratio of connected and interactive products will rise to approximately 20% on average by 2020, according to Forbes. This is a conservative estimate, and in some segments the ratio might increase much faster.

By digitizing current products and launching fully digitized ones, manufacturers can significantly reduce the risk of new product failures, as IoT-based products will enable them to monitor the actual use and performance of their products, get live feedback from their customers, and adopt future product innovation. IDC expects that by 2017, 60% of global manufacturers will use IoT to sense data from connected products and analyze that data to optimize the product portfolios, performance, and manufacturing processes. Similarly, the integration of IT assets and information with operational technology in the plant and the supply chain is also on the roadmap, if not already started.

Connecting the shop floor

Digitization offers the possibility to oversee every step in the manufacturing process, from customer demand, through production, and across the complete supply chain. The IDC study identified two IoT use cases – strategic asset management and customer experience – that seem to be very attractive for discrete manufacturing.

1. Strategic asset management

Manufacturers should start to digitize all of their assets in the production process and use IoT-based preventive and predictive maintenance scenarios in the plant and supply chain to reduce downtime and improve utilization. Using the information generated from digitization and IoT, businesses can evaluate use patterns and maintenance routines of their inventory and assets and optimize operations. Fixed assets can account for as much as one-third of all operating costs, so under today’s cost pressures a digital asset management surely matters. To fully use the potential of IoT and the real-time information gathered from assets, devices, and machines, companies need to ramp up their analytical and decision-making capabilities. Anecdotally, companies report that IoT use cases (such as remote maintenance) changed the way they thought about data and got them thinking significantly differently about information and insights.

2. Customization for customer experience

Demand for more choice, flexibility, and customized products is growing fast and estimated to be 15% of all products by 2020, according to MIT Smart Customization Group. Depending on size, material, and complexity, that percentage might be significantly higher. However complex the challenge for manufacturers might be, connected production in real-time is the basis, and it needs the right data from production capabilities, supply, equipment, and workforce, combined with all customer preferences. Getting the customer into the customization and production process is increasingly important for an improved customer experience, so IoT should be used to connect the products and, with it, the customer. This will not only give companies valuable data about user preferences and ideas for product innovation and improvements, but it will allow them to plan the customization of products much more efficiently.

Digitally enhanced business models

Digitization is by now a synonym for disruption. According to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 60% of companies think that digitization is the biggest risk they face. More than half of companies feel competitive pressure from digital offerings by their traditional competition and digital startups. As IDC found, discrete manufacturers are already actively exploring the IoT opportunities, so the change is already underway.

As we pointed out previously, the customer experience of choosing and buying a product is increasingly important, but it does not stop there. IoT-connected products will get the customer into an ongoing interaction with the product vendor and/or retailer, enhancing the buying and use experience. Moreover, companies can use this connection to expand their business models. In its study, IDC mentions a wider range of ideas that manufacturers already explore, such as remote maintenance, refill and replenishment, contracting, product performance, training, and location-based services. While they may not be applicable for all companies, they show the wide range of possibilities and opportunities. Digitization may be a threat for some traditional business models and companies, but it offers huge potentials for those who focus on the customer experience.

Creating a live business operation

The huge potential that IoT offers is less the physical connection of things, machines, and devices, and more the opportunity to create a live business operation based on an advanced data strategy and analytics. While all aspects of IoT have large innovation opportunities on their own, the combination of connected products, customization, and digitally expanded business models promises the biggest benefits for discrete manufacturers. Thus any IoT strategy – wherever it starts – should be created with a larger digitization goal in mind.

Conclusion

  • Connecting products and strategic asset management has big potentials for discrete industries.
  • The combination of connected products, customization, and digitally expanded business models promises the biggest benefits.
  • Companies should create a live business operation with advanced data and analytical skills to use the full potential of IoT.

For more details and information, please read IDC’s IoT whitepaper IoT and Digital Transformation: A Tale of Four Industries and look for future IoT papers that delve deeper into the IDC study’s findings.

Comments

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Idea Director of Thought Leadership at SAP. His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.