Power, Comfort & Assa Abloy
Last week I planned on ending the Power series, but I was triggered by a podcast that discussed "people who are comfortable with the use of Power." The comfort of Power is a very important attribute as it creates action. Luckily I was about six hours into a thirteen-hour car ride, so I had some time to think about it in the context of our industry - who is comfortable with Power in our industry, and what is an example?
For me, a great example of someone comfortable with Power in our industry is Assa Abloy. They not only create their Power Structures, but the industry makes them for them. When it comes to strategy decisions, too many companies in our industry inevitably end up asking themselves, "what is Assa/HID doing?" They have it, and they use it. Some of their uses of Power have created good, bad, new, and old Power Structures.
Here are some examples:
- Strategy: Assa has shown the ability to create an internal plan to move (slowly) away from old business models. An excellent example of this is shifting their focus of credentialling to identity and data. They play these two competing Power Structures out, but the old school "Credential Business Model Power Structure" will become pretty irrelevant over time. The irrelevancy will give the rest of the industry permission (whether they want it or not) to do the same. This is a good use of their Power. A bad example of a strategy and Power not working is the HID Twist & Go.
- Messaging: Assa has shown the ability to drive a Powerful message as an industry leader. Two examples are (1) Their leadership teams ability to move the investor community behind their strategies. This gives them permission to change (e.g., be more of a software company) and take risks (e.g., purchase of August) and (2) Their sales teams ability to drive the local market influence. More on that in number 5 below. Both of these are good examples of Power driving the industry. An example of their Messaging Power Structure being bad is their inability to market and tell a much more meaningful mainstream message. They really should spend more time and money outside of the industry. They have the Power to help the industry go mainstream. Please use it.
- Merger and Acquisitions: In a couple of ways. The use of M&A work allows them to make some bets. Some win, some fail, but they get away with it because they do it in volume. Plus, they pick up experienced talent and in-depth expertise versus trying to do it all in house. This Power Structure is useful in more ways than bad, and I would suspect it will continue. Examples here and here.
- Demand for "More dollars per door." They are flexing their Power muscles here and have executed this Power through both internal development and M&A work. I think they have overextended their Power position here and will see short term negative impacts but not sure it matters long term. In the short term, the use of Power results in a soft underbelly with their partner programs (e.g., their now competing with many partners. It is hard to keep telling the "it's not a big deal" story). Also, in the short term, change is messy (e.g., it is hard to coordinate everything, keep everyone on board internally, and maintain service levels externally. Still, I believe they are ok with all the short term pain because there is more long term upside. The long-term upside includes new revenue opportunities with significant margins and value, more direct to customer mindshare, and real dollars selling more software and service direct to customers. They have the Power to demand more dollars per door.
- Surrounding the job: Dealer control with End Users and Specification: This underappreciated Power Structure is a massive business mover. When the End User lines up on a specification, so does everyone else. And when the End User and Dealer line up on a specification, good luck breaking that up. Others do this, but not at the level they can. They have figured out how to surround the job and align just about all the influencers. I think this Power Structure is under attack by the industry going mainstream. Some of the spec points they have are losing relevancy (e.g., security story), and access control becoming a feature of a much larger value proposition is hurting this strategy. The counter to that is delivering a seed to flower system while also providing a platform for the ecosystem. Best of both worlds, very forward-looking, with rich margins and control. In the end, if you want to fight this Power, you need to go right at it and do the same.
- Industry Media: They control it via press releases and paid content. And even though its brain-numbing and adds no value, the industry continues to support press releases by rewriting them and calling them "news" and storytelling. No one is better at this game then Assa Abloy. And because of that, they own this Power Structure. As the industry goes mainstream and more outside the industry influencers drive the narrative, this Power Structure becomes less relevant. But until then, I guess it still works to garner dealer attention or at least at a minimum, some communications department metrics are met.
Again, some of their Power Structures are good, bad, new, and old. What is not up for debate is their comfort in using their Power. What are some other examples of companies or individuals that are comfortable with Power?