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Thought Leadership

Why Sharp?

As I excitedly announced here on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, I have joined Sharp Electronics, and more specifically Sharp Imaging and Information Corp of America (SIICA), to run B2B marketing.


There were several very interesting reactions to a long-time datacenter technology and solution marketer joining the company.


From the Sharp employees I’ve met so far, there was mostly excitement. Perhaps, a brief bit of expected nervousness, because, well, change can be scary. (That said, one thing I’ve found is that whether people have been at Sharp for 30 days, 30 months or 30 years, the willingness to embrace change is impressive.)


  • From friends and family there was either a very happy “Wow, you’re headed back to Jersey?” or a very sad, “Wait, you’re moving to Jersey?” The latter was mostly because I’ll be dragging my (far) better half and two pretty darn-cool kids with me, I’m sure.


  • From the Sharp AV distributors and and experts who love our AQUOS BOARD, video walls, etc., (and who I need to get a lot more time with), they simply asked “When can you come out for planning?” and a more whispered "I wonder if he has any AV-geek in him?" (Soon, I hope. And, yes, I do.)


  • From the multifunction printer (MFP) execs and teams, there was a great mix of welcoming excitement and "he's not from 'round here" curiosity. I was quite lucky in that I joined during a week where the MFP market's esteemed Cannata Report team had their annual awards dinner, with the industry elite all in one place. Not only did Sharp win four of the major awards at the dinner that night, but the hallway chats made clear how respected the Sharp team is across the industry.


  • Then there were the people who I’ve worked (and/or competed) with for 20-some years in the IT infrastructure world, who offered very genuine-feeling congratulations. However, I know that for many of them there was also some head-scratching. “Sharp? Interesting. Why Sharp?”


  • Fair enough. So then, why Sharp?


First, the position seemed tailored-made for me based on Sharp's needs as well as my background and desires. Second, the caliber of people met along the process was top notch, and ready to deal with my personality and traits. (Hopefully including the writing of overly-long blog posts.) Those were probably as important as any other items.


Outside of that, I have been spoiled on companies that are fixated on providing the highest quality products. Sharp certainly fits that mold as proven by the multiple industry awards we continue to receive. Maybe it's simply a trait of Japanese design and manufacturing expertise, or perhaps I'm just choosing wisely.


Also, it's a company that has come to grips with it's business model and is gaining momentum. In certain markets like the entry-level TV space, that previously mentioned fixation on quality can be a challenge, and indeed led to some very hard times at Sharp when cost trumped quality in that market. But more recently, Sharp has gotten itself into financial shape and is once again focused on growth.


Part of that getting into shape involved a revisiting of cost structures and product mix internationally. It also involved a very mutually beneficial new relationship with Foxconn (the more common name of Hon Hai Precision Industries) - where Foxconn is now the majority shareholder of publicly traded Sharp. Foxconn and Sharp share many synergies in components and manufacturing with some very well known joint customers, but they also share ambitions around smart offices, AI and IoT. For those of you who know Foxconn only from political news coverage (which I will leave to the talk show punditry to sort through), they are the world's preeminent electronics manufacturer. How big? How about $18.8 billion in revenue -- for the month of September. Yeah, that kind of big. On top of that, you likely know some brand names that are part of the Foxconn Group such as Belkin, Linksys and Wemo or as the new home to the Nokia phone technology, to name just a few.


The potential for synergies for the businesses are staggering, though - I'll admit - somewhat complicated. What will make it more complicated is if the businesses are not ready to think differently.


I am heartened, however, to see that concrete steps are already in place at Sharp to build on the foundation of MFP and display market success into new solutions approaches and thinking. Even in my short time here, I've...


  • Participated in a training session for a couple dozen “Virtual CIOs” that are already helping our customers address managed services for networking, print and security. Yes, there is a fast-growing Managed IT Services capability within from our Sharp Business Systems team.


  • Started planning with our partner Continuum (in their beautiful downtown Boston headquarters), whose platform we leverage to exceed our customers' managed services expectations for many of our offerings.


  • Began connecting with Foxconn group "sister companies" including a joint-customer/market opportunity discussion with Foxconn Industrial Internet, and planned a solution marketing conversation for later this week with Toshiba Client Solutions to understand potential synergies with the Toshiba PC line.


  • And, started delving deeply into the IoT sensor laden "Windows Collaboration Display" that's under development with Microsoft which will accelerate a number of smart-meeting, smart-office and even smart-building solutions leveraging the Microsoft 365 collaboration tools and Azure IoT capabilities. (Check out Microsoft's blog, here, to learn more about what's coming.)


  • That gives a hint to the new breadth of thinking around Sharp. And let's be clear, just as much (or more) time has been spent working on programs to continue our market-share growth in MFPs - which remain at the heart of information sharing in most increasingly-smarter offices.


‚ÄčAdmittedly, I'm quite interested in the promise of a smart office and how it can help us become more efficient, better at decision making and far more collaborative.


In the IT infrastructure space I came from there has been an important refocusing of efforts from system-centric thinking to data-centric thinking - which is a huge leap forward from a few years ago and meant to accelerate "Digital Transformation." But, the evolution to a smart office is a very interesting dynamic that IT-infrastructure thinkers tend to leave for others.


Digital transformation - buzzwordy as it may be - is simply about leveraging data to improve business outcomes. And while AI and advanced algorithms can spot anomalies data and instigate action in some cases, for most business applications, value still arrives when data is in the hands of an empowered user. Let's not forget it’s people that often still help data enter the system (scan), read and understand the data (print), interpret the data (often with advanced graphics on interactive screens) and discuss and debate the insights generated (in collaborative meetings). Improving the offices in which we work will improve the the human end of the data-driven transformation that business of all shapes and sizes are going through.


That’s my perspective so far on my "Why Sharp?" answer. We have a lot of the pieces, amazing backing from a technology behemoth and great people who are up for changing the status quo. I certainly have much more to learn, and so my goal is to bring you all on my learning journey. Over the coming weeks I plan to interview many experts from across the organization and share the insight I gain around our products, solutions, people and direction here on LinkedIn.


Stay tuned for more, and who knows, maybe you'll form your own answers to "Why Sharp?" along the way