How to Make Rational Decisions
As we’re battling a virus that scientists still don’t fully understand, watching the stock market sink, then soar, then sink again, and facing a contentious election, the future seems completely unpredictable (instead of merely as unpredictable as it has always been). When we feel such heightened uncertainty, our decision-making processes can break down. We may become paralyzed and afraid to act, or we may act on the basis of bias, emotion, and intuition instead of logic and facts.
Being aware of our uncertainty is a necessary precursor to managing it. Effective awareness means pausing, taking a strategic stop, and assessing the situation and the unknowns. We’re now being confronted with data that looks actionable — even though logically, we know it’s incomplete and volatile. But even when knowledge is limited, we have tools to help us make decisions systematically and analytically. Whether we’re assessing the meaning of the latest unemployment numbers or the impact of local romaine lettuce shortages, we can use a simple four-step process to work with and through ambiguity to make careful, reasoned decisions.
1. Identify the category of historical data you are working with.There are three main kinds of data we often confront and feel compelled to act on: salient data, which captures our attention because it is noteworthy or surprising; contextual data, which has a frame that may impact how we interpret it; and patterned data, which appears to have a regular, intelligible, and meaningful form.
2. Recognize which cognitive biases are triggered by each category. Different kinds of data trigger different biases, so identifying the data type and its related bias makes it easier to escape mental mistakes.
3. Invert the problem to identify what you really need to know.The third step in our process is to realize that you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to identify what matters most to your decision-making. To do that, invert your problem solving. Begin at the end, asking: So what? What do I really need to know to understand the situation? What difference would this information make? And how do I expect to use it? The universe of “known unknowns” — those pieces of data that exist but are not in your possession — is endless. But you don’t need to explore them all; inversion can help you home in on those you deem to be critical to solving your specific problem with confidence.
For example, the salient data about diminishing airline demand triggers a visceral response, which can make it easier to conclude that the industry is permanetly in dire straits. However, if we step back, we can recognize that there will continue to be an airline industry — that in the long term, people will want mobility, and the world’s economy will require it. This is a “known known.”
There is so much we know to be unknown. But there’s good news: To solve a specific problem, you don’t need to probe all the unknowns. To stay with our air travel example, this is true whether you are deciding whether to get on an airplane or to invest in an airline. A traveler’s concerns would be whether and when there is a flight to the desired destination and whether it feels safe to take it, whereas an investor might focus on which airline is best positioned to survive the downturn. Either way, by inverting your problem you can focus on the known unknowns that matter to you.
4. Formulate the right questions to get the answers you need.Many of us have trouble crafting the questions that could help us make a decision. One useful and practical way to move forward is to organize your questions into four main categories: behavior, opinion, feeling, and knowledge. This ensures that you’ll bring both distance and a variety of perspectives to the way you probe your data, which will help you counter preconceived assumptions and judgments. It will also give you a better context for interpreting the answers, because you’ll know the lens through which they are being filtered.
The four-step process helps us better address our emotional responses, name and confront them, and move forward with a rational decision. We’ll have a more complete picture, reducing the likelihood that we’ll rely upon well-worn thinking pathways and cognitive biases.
Voltaire once famously recommended that we judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. We’ll never know the future, but by examining our data and our thinking we can develop and ask great questions that will allow us to more confidently make decisions amid uncertainty.
Article was published by Cheryl Strauss for HBR
Best- And Worst-Performing Cloud Computing Stocks April 21st To April 25th And Year-to-Date
The six highest performing cloud computing stocks year-to-date in the Cloud Computing Index are F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV), Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM), Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR), Riverbed Technologies (NASDAQ:RVBD), VMWare (NYSE:VMW) AND Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO). A $10K investment in F5 Networks shares made on January 2nd of this year is worth $11,646 as of market close on Friday.
Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM) operates the world’s largest on-demand distributing computing platform, with more than 140,000 servers and approximately 1,200 networks operating worldwide today. In the coming quarters Akamai has said they will continue to invest aggressively in new technologies, specifically those that can further their market leadership in global content delivery, cloud optimization, Internet security and mobile integration. With 20%+ increases in R&D spending this year planned, Akamai intents to out-innovate its competitors in existing and new markets.
IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP share prices and YTD values of a $10K investment made on January 2nd of this year are also shown.
Who’s Delivering The Best Returns
The following graphic compares how $10,000 invested on January 2nd of this year in the highest performing cloud computing stocks, in addition to IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are valued today.
Please see the full Cloud Computing Index for market caps, average volumes, 52-week high and low share prices, Earnings per Share, Price/Earnings Ratio, and Beta. I am using the Google Finance Portfolio option to track the performance of these stocks. For information on how this index was created, see the description at the end of this post. I do not hold equity positions or work for any of the companies mentioned in this blog post or included in the and this post is not meant to provide investment advice. It is simply a glimpse into the performance of these company’s stock prices over time. Please click on the graphic to expand for easier reading.
Best Performing Cloud Computing Stocks, April 21rst to 25th, 2014
Worst Performing Cloud Computing Stocks, April 21rst to 25th, 2014
Best Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In 2014
Worst Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In 2014
Comparing Cumulative Stock Performance
Performance of the Cloud Computing Index over the last year is compared to NetSuite, Salesforce, IBM, Oracle and SAP is below. This index has been up 15.99% over the last year, with NetSuite (NYSE:N) down 10.16%, Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) up 29.69%, IBM (NYSE:IBM) up 2.41%, Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) up 21.91% and SAP (NYSE:SAP) up .13%. Please click on the graphic to expand for easier reading.
Specifics on the Cloud Computing Stock Index
I used The Cloud Times 100 as the basis of the index, selecting twenty companies all of which are publically traded. The latest edition of the Cloud Computing Index is shown here. The filter applied to these companies is that 50% or more of their revenues are generated from cloud-based applications, infrastructure and services
After having lived in the UK for three years in the 1990s as part of Unilever, Bharti Retail CEO Raj Jain got a call from Whirlpool in Shanghai to lead its product development and marketing in the region. Later, he became President of Emerging Markets based in China. For the vegetarian Jain, China was lost in translation the moment he landed.
If the language was alien, the food was far removed from his regular fare. But the positive takeaways remain etched in his mind forever. "For the first time, I saw that 50% of the workforce comprised women, who worked in what is perceived to be male-dominated sectors, like shop floor, factories and transportation...there's no taboo, like there is in India," he says.
Today, he wants to replicate that model in his Bharti Retail, which has launched the Housewives' Program, where hausfraus can find jobs in the company's Easy Day stores when their kids go to school.
For Indian business leaders, a foreign posting is mind-altering in more ways than one. Apart from managing cultural diversity better with exposure to a global peer group, it tends to mature them faster by throwing them at the deep end of complex business processes.
Ashish Arora, MD of headhunting firm HR Anexi, cites his most recent recruitment by fixing the spotlight on a 45-year-old who worked in one of the largest logistics companies in the world for 18 long years in one location, India, until moving to Singapore as part of the same company a couple of years ago.
In India, he could never make the grade to the country manager but the job in Singapore entailed managing key accounts for the entire APAC region and gave him exposure to manage 13 different nationalities, including some from Europe. "He was managing Euro 150 million in India whereas in Singapore, he managed Euro 450 million. He's now returning to India as CEO of another company," says Arora.
Few understand the value of responsible positions overseas as clearly as Avinash Vashistha, chairman & managing director of Accenture India. Vashistha migrated to North America as a student in the early 1980s and worked with Bell Labs and Nortel before turning entrepreneur and eventually taking up the Accenture job. He came to India in 2011 to head Accenture in the subcontinent.
Apart from a flat structure and equal opportunity that the land of liberty is famed for, Vashistha lauds connectivity the most. "The US has connectivity with all markets and that gave me inroads into China, the Philippines and Latam. If you have American experience, you'll be able to help with access to US clients and markets and that's exactly what the headquarters are looking for," he says.
In India, there's always room at the top for people like Vashistha and Jain as they operate in sectors where their overseas experience is valued. Jain came to Indian retail from Wal-Mart in China at a time when experiential retailing was missing in the country. His job was to pretty much set up the retail apparatus ground up.
Again, in Vashistha's case, he combines the best of hardware and software with experiences around cloud, analytics and big data that the US market continues to redefine every now and then.
Navnit Singh, Chairman and Country Head of headhunter Korn/Ferry International recently closed two top positions in software MNCs. He says that since both candidates had US experience, they could relate to the latest in technology and had marketing skills aligned to the global headquarters, which is normally amiss in their homegrown counterpart. "It ensures the go to market is better," says
Singh. While hiring CEOs in India, companies are increasingly looking for American, European or Asian experience. Ashish Arora says that over the last few weeks he had met several candidates who had served in Africa between 18-34 months but did not fit the bill owing to regional dissonance with the subcontinent. Should an aspiring economy look at mature markets while hiring its leaders?
Arvind Uppal, who heads APAC for Whirlpool, has been with Nestle in Switzerland, China and Vietnam before returning to India to head Whirlpool. He says he'd be wary of picking up top talent from developed markets where labor costs are high with an over-dependence on processes. "It is different in India. While there should be exposure to advanced economies, the top boss should not be totally process dominated," he says.
While Uppal was in China, he realised the overriding denial of rights had created a culture where execution was swift once a strategy is laid. "In India, on the other hand, everybody had a point of view and so getting people to adhere to a strategy, needed clarity," he says, adding how he sat down with his team in India to devise a onepage document that remains the Bible in his company.
It is a three-year document that sets out annual objectives in lucid terms. "After reading the document, there should not be a single employee in the organisation who would not know his role," claims Uppal. This year, for instance, the stress is on market share and growth, while in the previous year, the focus was on profitability.
In case external factors come into play, it is communicated to the employees and an amendment drawn up to focus on the temporary period. It certainly wouldn't have been possible without Uppal's dragon ride.
Uppal has also worked in Nestle's headquarters at Vevey, Switzerland. So leaders who are engaged with the headquarters more directly in mature markets also tend to bring in international values as to what the corporation stands for and respect for the consumer. And that takes delivery to another level. The Chennai-based Sachin Nandgaonkar, Senior Partner & Director, BCG works in the automotive and capital goods space.
He contends that an overseas posting would enable the candidate get a better grip on product complexity, scale and standardization, where companies are increasingly dealing with common platforms and taking a longer term view in terms of product portfolios.
"They have also seen markets evolve in different periods of time and have a good understanding of market realities," he says. Recently, Nandgaonkar hired someone for the auto sector who spent several years in South East Asia, though in a different industry. One day, while discussing safety features inside a car, they touched upon connectedness in Indian cars.
He said that while he understood the perception of Indians was different than South East Asia or the rest of the world, being a value-conscious market, the subcontinent was a huge smartphone market too.
So he concluded that connectedness was a natural for the Indian consumer. Despite repeated warnings by his product managers, he's now bent on introducing "global connected values" to Indian car buyers, which is in sync with his headquarters.
Nandgaonkar also points to the liberal side of top talent coming from overseas. "They are able to get people to speak up and get their perspectives as the challenge in India is that the middle and junior management are seldom expressive," he says. And that is one way how Anirban Dey, Managing Director of SAP Labs India, benefitted. An IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, Dey went on to do his Masters in Engineering and MBA from the US before signing on at Oracle for a decade. Admittedly, his American exposure taught him what a free bent of mind can achieve. It drilled in him the innovative startup culture of the Silicon Valley and a deep understanding of global consumers.
Today, as he manages SAP Labs in India, it is the same spirit of innovation and free-thinking he's trying to inculcate in the Indian workforce. "I have a very flexible workforce," he claims.
Also, his understanding of global customers is helping him connect with local businesses. Last year, for instance, he was giving a retail solution for customers of a global brokerage house and during the discussion, there were issues on data privacy that cropped up. "It was relatively easy for me to tackle since I grasped the nuances of data privacy around the world having had that exposure earlier," say Dey.
Similarly, Vivek Nath, Managing Director of HR consulting firm Towers Watson, credits his business perspective to stints in China and Malaysia. Nath started out in Noble & Hewitt in India in the 1990s until he left for his MBA in 2002 in Singapore.
A year later, he was snapped up by
PwC in Shanghai and remained there till May 2006 when Towers Watson (then Watson & Wyatt) made an offer in the Malaysian market.
All of 29 in 2008, he was offered the role of country manager in Kuala Lumpur alongside the option of a senior consultant's position in London. He chose the former since the role entailed leadership attributes and more interaction with the headquarters. "It gave me a great alignment and learning as to how to sell your strategy to the global HQ," says Nath.
Nath has been in India for the last three years and finds his relevance with clients higher today than moons ago when he was a consultant with Noble & Hewitt. He says one of his clients recently faced an issue with their executive compensation plan in the US and he was able to bring in a better perspective through interactions with the global Towers Watson offices.
But most of all, Nath wants to inculcate a profitability culture among his Indian colleagues. "My interaction with managers has always been around market share and growth but the US headquarters is looking at profitability as well," he says. "Projects must be profitable today, not tomorrow."
That thinking is echoed by Raj Jain of Bharti Retail too as he regularly emphasizes on the merits of training and development for profitable growth. He realized this is his days at Unilever in London where not just the management but even the shopfloor workers were ingrained in the values of training and development.
So when he returned to India as part of HUL, he ran a plant in UP with a similar drill making workers realise the virtues of best manufacturing practices. The initiative got noticed and was taken up by the HUL board in 1995 with workers from the plant presenting their case. Again, it was Jain's overseas exposure that allowed him to have the last laugh.
BANGALORE: Infosys is reorganising its data analytics operation, but the company does not expect to appoint a sales head to replace Basab Pradhan any time soon, top executives have said.
India's second-largest company, which is coping with internal transition while attempting to win back lost growth leadership, will be consolidating its data analytics operation under one roof, similar to a move by rival Wipro a few weeks ago.
The data analytics move, along with the decision to separate the products business into a new company, is part of the effort by Infosys, under chairman NR Narayana Murthy, to align the organisation to deal with the challenges thrown up by technological changes and evolving client needs.
"Today we have analytics presence across verticals. We are trying to see if all of it can be pulled together as a new horizontal to get speed and scale," said UB Pravin Rao, one of the two newly elevated presidents of Infosys who will oversee the new division. "We have decided to further invest and accelerate our growth in analytics. The details of the new analytics unit will be announced shortly."
Infosys, which is looking to increase its share of revenues from technologies such as data analytics, cloud and social, will launch the analytics practice with a team of nearly 300 specialists who currently work with different verticals. The division, which is yet to be formally launched, will also recruit people with backgrounds in data sciences and statistics, Rao said.
"The idea is when you incubate something new, you should start it as a horizontal and then divide it into verticals. We did the same thing with our mobility division."
Dhiraj Rajaram, the founder and CEO of India's largest pure-play data analytics firm Mu Sigma, said that data analytics is not just "a people game", referring to labour arbitrage. "The DNA of an IT company is very different from the DNA of a big data and decision sciences organisation. A big data organisation is a combination of a consulting firm, a product company and an applied math university."
The rapid adoption of new technologies has forced large companies in India's $108-billion software sector to set up new business units and partner with academic institutions and startups that specialise in these areas. Bangalore-based Wipro, India's third-largest software provider, recently merged its analytics business with the advanced technologies service line. It also owns a stake in London-based data analytics company Opera Solutions.
Kuldeep Koul, analyst with Mumbaibased brokerage firm ICICI Securities said most of the technology spending is happening in SMAC — an acronym for social, mobile, analytics and cloud.
"Companies realise they are in a slow growth environment and everyone wants to achieve higher market share. That's the simple philosophy behind why companies are now ramping up analytics practices."
Infosys has also undertaken organisational restructuring under chairman NR Narayana Murthy and several top executives have left the company, among them former sales head Pradhan and board members V Balakrishnan and Ashok Vemuri.
While it has filled most senior management vacancies through internal promotions and transfers, the company is yet to appoint a sales head to replace Pradhan.
SD Shibulal, the outgoing chief executive, said Infosys is not looking for a sales head until it identifies a new CEO. Shibulal has said that he will retire latest by January 9, 2015, and Infosys has appointed two agencies to search for his successor from within the company and outside. "I think the new CEO will come and take a look at all this," Shibulal told ET on Tuesday.
Murthy was recalled as Infosys chairman in June last year amid criticism of the company's underperformance for over two years. Under Murthy, Infosys has disbanded its executive council, appointed Pravin Rao and Srinivas as presidents and reduced costs while focussing on bread-and-butter software development and computer infrastructure maintenance deals.
Industry observers were of the view the decision to hire a sales head after Infosys appoints a successor to Shibulal is "logical", but said the company's turnaround plan is taking longer than expected.
"Infosys is taking too much time to get its act together. The market is watching and employees are getting impatient," said Ajit Isaac, MD and CEO of Ikya Human Capital Solutions, a Bangalorebased HR services company.
SAN FRANCISCO — Alexander the Great is said to have wept because he ran out of kingdoms to conquer. Google is eager to avoid such a miserable fate.
Its core digital advertising business is so dominant that analysts are questioning just how much it can continue to grow. So Google is unleashing its vast cash hoard on robotics, artificial intelligence, smart thermostats and, just this week, high-altitude drone satellites.
The only thing all these acquisitions have in common is a focus on the future — often, the distant future.
The risk in thinking about what will be big in 2050, however, is that you can lose sight of 2014.
Google’s first-quarter earnings report, released after the market closed on Wednesday, surprised Wall Street. The company has traditionally gushed profits without breaking a sweat. Now it takes more of an effort.
One big reason was a problem of several years’ standing: Internet users are migrating to mobile devices, but ads on phones and tablets still do not have the familiarity and appeal they do on bigger computers. And they are not as profitable for Google. Google’s ad volume jumped 26 percent in the quarter, which sounds good but is less than expected, while the amount advertisers pay dropped 9 percent, which sounds bad and is.
Continue reading the main storyGoogle shares, which were about $600 in March, came under pressure in the recent tech sell-off.
There were other potentially worrisome notes. Operating expenses were 35 percent of revenue, compared with 31 percent in the first quarter of 2013. One reason: acquiring companies at a rapid clip entails specialist fees and other costs.
Then there were real estate and construction costs, as Google races with Amazon to build out the computing cloud for potential customers. The company needs a lot of data centers. That raised capital expenditures to $2.35 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2013. Google said it expected expenditures to remain high.
Revenue was ostensibly impressive for the quarter, rising 19 percent, to $15.42 billion, but that was about $100 million short of expectations. Net income was $3.45 billion, and earnings per share were $5.04, compared with $4.97 in 2013, slightly weaker than forecast.
The stock, which was up strongly earlier in the day, immediately fell 5 percent before partly recovering. Google split its shares this month, a move that solidified the founders’ control over the company.
“The issue with Google is, you want to support the management in their efforts to find new revenue streams, but you don’t want them to act careless with shareholder capital,” said Colin Gillis of BGC Partners.
Google’s efforts to find those new streams have intensified recently. It acquired several robotic companies, including Boston Dynamics, maker of BigDog, Cheetah and other mechanical creatures. It bought Nest Labs, which developed an innovative thermostat, for $3.2 billion.
And just this week it bought Titan Aerospace, which makes drone satellites. Google said Titan, which was founded in 2012 and has about 20 employees, could help bring Internet access to millions and help solve problems like deforestation. The purchase price was not disclosed but is believed to be around $75 million.
With $59 billion in cash in the bank and a well-oiled machine that every quarter generates billions more, Google can clearly afford to buy all sorts of companies. Generally Wall Street has indulged these acquisitions, even the unusual ones.
“All the crazy stuff like robotics is the best thing for the company,” said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. “Investors feel like it’s a company that going to continue to find ways to grow. It’s a big contrast with Apple, whose investors are begging them to do more crazy stuff.”
Mr. Gillis is more skeptical. “Do you trust Google’s management as visionaries?” he asked. The analyst questioned the Nest purchase. Making thermostats does not fit in with Google’s core advertising operation, he said. Neither do the robots.
In absolute terms, Google is doing very well. Here is one way to measure its heft: The company is projected to increase its digital ad revenue this year by more than $5 billion, which is more than the total ad revenue of Yahoo or Microsoft.
The only viable threat to Google comes from Facebook, whose ad revenue is forecast by eMarketer to jump 50 percent this year. Facebook’s revenue is about a quarter of Google’s.
Google’s position on the decline in its profits for mobile ads? Don’t worry about it.
“I believe in the medium to long term that mobile pricing has to be better than desktop,” Nikesh Arora, Google’s senior vice president and chief business officer, said on a conference call with analysts. His reasoning is that knowing where the customer physically is will command a premium.
The “holy grail,” he added, will be when they start their campaign on the site instead of merely concluding it there.
One analyst noted on the call that Google had 10 percent of the worldwide advertising market.
“That tells me there’s 90 percent more opportunity around the world,” Mr. Arora said. “We don’t constrain ourselves and our thinking. We’d like more than we have in every market out there.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2014, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Earnings and Sales From Google Disappoint. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe