Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Google's Strategy

I listened to a series of predictions by Mark Anderson of Strategy News Service several nights ago on Global Business during a bout of insomnia and was intrigued by his prediction that "Google has lost its way", "doesn't know what business they are in" and were "a rudderless organisation".

With regard to what business Google are in, my analysis is that they are in the data business: collection, analysis, enrichment and dissemination. The fact that they make money out of ads is coincidental and is indeed predicated on this, without which, targeting of ads would be impossible. The fact that they do it so successfully gives this strategy provenance.

With regards strategic direction, I can see where Mark Anderson is coming from, having done and MBA at the OU and the Certificate in Company Direction at the IOD. He's talking about the classic model of top-down corporate strategy development (which is rudimentary and heuristic.)

Strategic direction is usually driven
by external marketing campaigns and salesmanship rather than the day-to-day expertise of the workforce as it's much easier dealing with external consultants, vendors and pundits. You do pay for their opinion after all and you're not accountable to them but, most of all, they'll tell you what you want to hear or sell you what their paymasters tell them to and buy you a nice lunch too.

The fact that, in general, the workforce is ignored and their tacit knowledge is never made explicit, analysed, persisted and incorporated into strategic direction is the sad state of knowledge management. It is mostly due to fear of the workforce and their expertise together with a fear of failure.

Perhaps Google is different (I don't know as I've neither worked there nor talked to any of their employees) in that they are driven by the expertise of their developers and develop products which best fit the data they have. Strategy may be bottom up and may be derived from the expertise of the many clever people who work there. Does this make them rudderless? Perhaps but
the "rudder" developed by most organisations is often generic at best and irrelevant in practise. I think I'd rather go with my perception of how Google develops strategy