At last week’s Hitachi Strategy Session the essence of the event was made very clear up front: ”You're not going to get boxes and roadmaps - it's business strategy." For some vendors – and this isn’t a pejorative comment, just a statement of fact – “strategy” actually means that those of us in the audience are simply going to get higher level messages about the importance of, and their intention to, provide better boxes and roadmaps! But here the different corporate strategy of Hitachi was front, center, and crystal clear.
Senior Hitachi executives Kojima-san (who leads its Insight group) and Otsuki-san (who heads the US operations) kicked off the event with a reminder of Hitachi’s history and corporate ethos….that wasn’t significant just because it’s a stark contrast to many other vendor organizations in this business; but instead also because it served to remind us that the strategy Hitachi now promotes is actually more of a public manifestation and route-to-market alignment with what this organization has really been about for its more-than-a-century of life. This video from the event (in which I am joined by my colleague Terri McCure and Hicham Abdessamad, the CEO/President of Hitachi Consulting) summarizes what this is all about.
Oh, yeah, before I move on, I should say – shhh! - that we did spend a few hours on some [highly cathartic] box and roadmap stuff too! Phew! However even in this field I sensed strongly that the sales mantra is increasingly that you don’t lead with the products, you lead to them.
And that brings us back to the corporate positioning. Hitachi clearly has an enormous breadth of capabilities; perhaps it’s not surprising when you own 119,000 patents (more than GE and Siemens put together!). Hitachi’s 106 years in OT and 57 years in IT leads to a pleasing contemporary semantic fit with the massive emerging IoT need/opportunity; while this may well be the ‘glue’ for many large undertakings for decades hence, nonetheless even this neat acronym-play undervalues the extent of that aforementioned Hitachi breadth and ambition. And explaining this will be both a challenge and opportunity for Hitachi – especially for those of us whose geography and vertical focus lead us to think of Hitachi in a more limited sense…..to me and many in IT that has been HDS.
Moreover we’re not overly used to hearing from vendors that attest to want to contribute to both their business/profit and positively impact society. There was plenty of talk at this event about data being at the center of everything: I get that in principle but in fact the true focus of the greater Hitachi is broad and deep vertical infrastructural initiatives, implementations and outcomes – all of which may have data as a central element….but ultimately data as a servant rather than a master. But I also think Hitachi not only sees but understands this conundrum: the interconnections and improvements afforded by data and IT these days certainly mean that Hitachi is one of a very small group of conglomerate companies that will have to struggle with a suitable moniker to describe and encapsulate its reach. Other vendors of scale may take on similar projects, but often they will do so as more of a lead contractor, whereas Hitachi is manifestly many of the sub-contractors rolled into one. At least those of us in IT understand the concept of “convergence.” Here it is just on steroids!