I've been attending Fujitsu's North American analyst day that it's been holding annually in Boston for quite a while. This year was no exception. Fujitsu executives spent the day of October 23 in the Intercontinental on Boston's rapidly morphing waterfront providing an update on company products, services, and, especially, strategy.
If I had to sum up my overall takeaway from most past meetings, it would probably be something along the lines of "incremental advance" or "slow and steady." In 2006, I even wrote that:
...strikingly little has changed with Fujitsu (specifically Fujitsu Computer Systems of North America) over the past year. We noted after last year's conference that "slow and steady" was their meme. To be sure, that implies progress, if not enough of it. But, with a few tweaks here and there, I could cut and paste the report we published after that conference, change a few customer names and other specific details, and reuse it today.
This year felt different. The change hasn't so far been much reflected in products or revenues, but in Fujitsu's organization and its strategy. The net is that Fujitsu appears to be more serious about being an integrated worldwide business--rather than a Japanese company that opportunistically also sells elsewhere--than I've seen them to date.
Fujitsu Limited was founded in 1935 as Fuji Telecommunications Equipment Manufacturing. Today it has about 500 subsidiaries around the world, including Fujitsu Computer Systems, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based operation that sells enterprise hardware, software, and services in North America. Fujitsu Limited had 2007 revenues of about $53 billion; 63.9 percent came from Japan and 9.8 percent came from the Americas.
In history, products, and structure, Fujitsu has much in common with NEC--another large Japanese electronics supplier whose sales efforts elsewhere in the world have been patchy. In the case of both companies, it's often seemed as if they aligned themselves almost exclusively to the needs of the Japanese--or at least the Asia-Pacific (APAC) market and left the rest of their worldwide operations to do the best they could with that same set of products. It's often even been unclear whether certain products could actually be purchased and supported in a particular geography.
However, earlier this year, Fujitsu significantly reorganized its operations. Such reorganizations aren't especially uncommon. The worldwide web of subsidiaries that make up a company like Fujitsu always seem to be getting rearranged. But this latest reorganization seems more structural.
The four major regions--Americas, EMEA, China, and APAC--now report into a Global Business Group headed by Richard Christou (who originally joined Fujitsu when it purchased U.K.-based computer maker ICL). The regions will still "act locally" (to use Christou's term) but the idea is that there will now be a global strategy framework and a consistent set of practices and products whereas previously each region implemented its own strategy.
As is the case with any organization, sales volumes will doubtless continue to drive resources allocations and product decisions. In the case of Fujitsu, that means the needs of APAC will weigh heavily when trade-offs have to be made. However, the fact that Fujitsu is now at least organized around and talking in global terms has to count as a big change.