Making Sense of Apple’s Strategy

Written in response to the article ‘Apple iThrone’ (Jan 29th 2015) in The Economist. The ‘Four Schools’ of Strategy Whittington (2002) proposed four categories of strategy: Classical, Evolutionary, Processual and Systemic. With roots from the Enlightenment and a ‘Scientific Method’ approach, the Classical school is a systematic top-down approach whereby rational strategy formulation, performed by senior managers, is then later performed to maximise profits. The implementation is closely monitored to ensure objectives are reached and sufficient resources available and utilised. The Classical school depends on the “rational economic man” and assumes that people are all motivated uniformly toward profitability. The approach inherently separates the formulation of strategy (by a small few) from the implementation (by the many) and with the goal of long-term planning, does not consider that strategy can emerge from trial and error nor must adapt to a dynamic environment. Whittington describes the Evolutionary perspective where markets determine, in Darwinian fashion, which companies will survive i.e. continue to maximise profitability. As markets determine the strategies companies must adopt, this downplays the value of managers as strategists to concentrating on efficiency e.g. cost control. Similar to Darwin’s Natural Selection, the perspective relies on a diversity of companies/products from which[…]

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Why business managers should understand strategy.

Chandler (1962) offers a generalised explanation of strategy: “The determination of the basic long-term goal and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and allocation of resources necessary for those goals.” Jabrowski et al. (2007, pp.7-8) proposes strategy as “situated, socially accomplished activity”. As decision-makers, Managers are charged with the responsibility of implementing an organisation’s aims, its mission or realising its vision (perhaps determined by directors or stakeholders). The aims for an organisation can vary but are usually focussed about being effective, which can be profitability or effective expenditure – both often via attaining competitive advantage. Mintzberg (1985) argues that strategy concerns all aspects of a business and that distinguishing between trivial detail (“tactics”) and important decisions (“strategy”) may only be an artificial product of hindsight. Therefore as any decision could have strategic consequence; it is of primary importance that managers understand strategy – to better inform, even the routine/operational, decision making processes. Mintzberg (1996) proposed 5 Ps to understand strategy, as summarised in the table below: Plan A deliberate course of action, made in advance of actions. Ploy A specific manoeuvre to outwit a competitor Pattern Strategy can be realised from consistency of behaviour (deliberate[…]

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Solar Eclipse

I didn’t know about the solar eclipse until a couple of days ago and I hadn’t left myself enough time to get some goggles. All of the local shops had sold out. Solar eclipses are rare and being able to see a solar eclipse properly from your little spot on our planet, even rarer. So, I decided I’m not going to miss out. The two options were to borrow a welding mask from someone at work or make myself some goggles. I did the latter because I didn’t want to look a dickhead stood on top of a hill wearing a helmet. I got a pair of 3D cinema glasses from my collection of 3D cinema glasses (that I am reluctant to bin, just in case 3D cinema has yet another revival in a decade). I popped out the lenses. I then cut out out some squares of mylar sheeting (from a ‘space blanket’) and stuck them in layers over the glasses. Okay, I admit, it’s probably not very scientific but I basically got my really bright site light (the thing you see on the floor in construction sites) and sat in close to me and kept adding layers until[…]

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Paracord

Appreciating cordage is important for outdoors activities – with lots of different types for different uses. I wrote this supplement for a session on paracord, which is my favourite. I always carry it on me. I’ve even upgraded shoe laces with it – just in case.

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Evaluating the adoption of a SOA approach to developing applications

At the current ‘evolutionary stage’ of E-Business technologies, the multi-tier architecture (illustrated in Figure 1) utilised by Picture Rights can be regarded as a more traditional design. As a common business approach, this multi-tier architecture is relatively mature and stable with the advantage of being well-supported. When based on standards, this architecture allows for future developments because each tier can be readily exchanged due to defined interfaces between tiers. This model automates many activities of the business processes, for example, a client could submit a web form with a picture attachment to request a quote. However, the model fundamentally relies on the human operator as input to the process so the level of automation is ‘capped’ e.g. the user may have to re-submit multiple forms. The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an alternative approach whereby the most relevant group of technologies is the Web Services Architecture (WSA). The primary goal of adopting a WSA approach is to enable automation by providing interfaces between the company’s electronic business systems and external or internal software applications. Figure 2 outlines the operation of web services. The WSA does not replace the existing architecture but is complementary: the web service still uses a web[…]

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The contribution of Amazon’s e-commerce activities to our current ‘digital revolution’

Jeff Bezos setup Amazon in 1994 and began trading on the Web in 1995 in the initial, subsequently regarded, commercialisation period of the Internet’s development. Many consumers adopt technology in a relatively passive process, likened to following fashion (as opposed to making informed decisions about standards or scalability) – demonstrated by a study of mobile phones in colleges (Katz, 2006). By default, one may therefore see Amazon’s business success from a hard-deterministic perspective i.e. the availability of technology enabled Amazon to (luckily) thrive. However, Amazon’s strategy, in its early adoption of e-business technology, involved a process to co-construct the e-business technologies (i.e. Web) to bring about change – the ‘digital revolution’. Amazon’s innovation lay within the use of technology to transform commercial and the social landscape so this essay focusses on Amazon as a retailer of books in its first decade of growth. The Digital Revolution The ‘digital revolution’ describes the “changes to society and business, beginning in the 1990s, that were brought about by technologies such as digital networks, computer software and new digital media” (T320, Block 1 Part 1, p.26). Despite a widespread acceptance in contemporary society that the digital revolution is humanity’s most radical technological leap, some[…]

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Handwriting

I have an upcoming exam for a business module of my degree. It’s 3 hours long written exam. When our lecturer told us about it, I didn’t think much of it to be honest. The it dawned on me: I haven’t hand-written anything at length it over 10 years – apart from the odd letter – 2 sides max. My first primary school was a state primary school, which I believe is still going 30 years on. I moved to a private school, St Joseph’s Convent, and I remember practising my handwriting at length, special ‘penmanship paper’, but I was really behind the other pupils – I couldn’t write cursively. Indeed, I learned to write cursively eventually but after fracturing my little finger in secondary school (before I learned to punch properly!), I reverted to print form. People do comment I have nice hand-writing and I do enjoy calligraphy but achieve legible writing takes me ages. Writing does not feel natural to me like typing (although I can only touch type if I’m not paying attention – as soon as I realise I am touch typing, I fumble). I have to ‘go back to school’ to learn to write again[…]

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Photo Mosaic

I made a really cool ‘photo mosaic’ – this is basically a large image made up of lots of other images. You have to decide on the master photo and then choose all the other photos. There’s a few software packages that will do this but I opted from AndreaMosaic (it’s free). The result is below – you may need to squint your eyes to see the overall image.

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