Real Digital Transformation Example: Publishing Industry Disruption

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When I was asked to be CIO at Microsoft in 2013, I knew I had a daunting task ahead of me. A CEO transition to Satya Nadella and acquisitions of Nokia and LinkedIn were just the tip of the iceberg. Historic IT mindsets were slowing us down at a time we needed speed. Legacy systems and processes seemed to have a mind of their own. I asked my team for help in accelerating everything we were trying to do — some people embraced the opportunity, and others resisted. We broke some things, made mistakes, but we learned. After eventually making considerable progress including transforming how we worked and migrating almost everything we ran to a public cloud, I found myself looking back at everything we figured out and wishing I could take all the lessons and start over. We could go so much faster with far fewer missteps, and be further along on the journey with less churn. Since I couldn’t actually start over, I decided I could at least write down some of the biggest lessons for others, which led to me writing a book.

I determined that if I was going to write about the journey to fast and modern, I couldn’t use one of the old-fashioned publishing companies. One publisher that reached out to me had a very modern appeal. Pacelli Publishing offers the normal services an author expects around editing, cover art, and publicity, but also offers what you should expect in a digitally transformed world. When someone orders my book online, it prints on-demand and ships in the same amount of time we’ve all come to expect in ordering from Amazon. This Print on-Demand model means we don’t need to pay for and hold a large inventory of books. Pacelli can do this because they built their business model on top of the Amazon self-publishing service. I suspect this service from Amazon is simple, but they took care of everything for me to make it a seamless experience.

Another reason I picked Pacelli Publishing was the brand and IP they built around a series called Six-Word Lessons. It was a good format for documenting the lessons I wanted to share. They have already published more than 30 books in the series and it fit with the book I wanted to write. The Six-Word Lessons brand focuses on the importance (and difficulty) of being concise rather than wordy. In their template, every lesson needed to be exactly 6 words, accompanied by less than a page in large font to explain the lesson. It forced me, in a good way, to refine the lessons down to the real meat.

I discovered through the process of working with this modern publisher that there is a lot more in what they are doing that I think will be disruptive to the old school print publishing industry. They were open to new ideas, and we worked on them iteratively together. They were very agile with changes, and provide a better margin to authors through the efficiency and low overhead they can provide on top of the Amazon service. Their update process is also amazing.

A couple of weeks ago while presenting at an MIT event for their Center for Information Systems Research, I was talking to one of their professors who was also writing a book. We were planning to finish writing our books about the same time. He said his book was scheduled to come out early next spring, and was surprised when I said my book would be out in a couple of weeks. He then acknowledged frustration with the current publishing industry especially as I explained our process to make updates. With Pacelli Publishing and Amazon not only can I take advantage of the Print on-Demand capability with Amazon’s CreateSpace, but the process to make an update is simple. While the professor told me it was almost an act of God for him to get an update made after release, all I have to do with Pacelli Publishing is make the change and have them upload a new master. Every book after that is fixed. This is real digital transformation in action.

My book is available on Amazon now, although we are still finalizing wording for endorsements that will go in the white space on www.6wordlessons.com/jim over the next several days.

I’ll add a link to the MIT study on data driven cultures I was presenting with MIT principal research scientist Barbara Wixom as soon as it is available.

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Jim DuBois

Under Jim DuBois' leadership, Microsoft IT is responsible for security, infrastructure, messaging and business applications for all of Microsoft, including support of the product groups, the corporate business groups, and the global sales and marketing organization. Jim also plays a critical role as an ambassador and evangelist with customers and partners, helping them get the most out of Microsoft’s products and embracing our vision for the future.

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