The Art of Management

Management approaches and practices and the realities of the world of media and communications have changed dramatically during the 35 plus years since I entered the telecommunications industry as an intern with AT&T. At the same time, there have also been massive changes in consumer behavior. These include becoming “real time” at home, work, or on-the-go, and taking a multi-tasking, multimedia approach to most everything we do and communicate.

On the management side, advances in strategy, planning, operations, and organizational change have been driven by innovations in theory and practice as well as new technologies, especially the enormous impact of the personal computer, the Internet, and wireless communications. Though I have been most interested and involved in issues of leadership and management in large, multinational business organizations, I have a long-standing interest in small business, having established US West Small Business, the first small business market unit of a major telecommunications company many years ago.

As head of US West Small Business, my job required me to fully understand the issues of leadership and management in our nation’s small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs serve as the economic backbone of most American communities, provide most of the nation’s new jobs year after year, and spark innovation – the key to America’s success in the world. However, I have been mainly focused on the management of innovation at every level of business, and more recently in the management of the transformation of systems, processes, and performance of large enterprises, an experience which has given me new insights into making things work in large organizations, insights included in the commentaries I am sharing here.

There have been equally deep-rooted and widespread changes in the models and practices that define today’s media and communications space – models and practices which, like leadership and management, have also changed dramatically over the past 35 years, and especially over the past decade. For example, every element of “who says what to whom through what channels with what effects” has changed.

  • The “who” in communications is now every individual of any age, gender, or worldview – and not just the journalists, published authors, or other elites. The easy access to media we now enjoy represents a true revolution in bottoms-up participation in commerce, politics, and the wider culture.
  • “Says what” now includes everything from peer-to-peer personal condolences – first used in volumes in the wake of 9/11 – to highly-targeted business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) commercial messages and transactions. Messages also include machine-to-machine (M2M) communications as everything from computers to small sensors talk to each other as they work in silence as we work and communicate in more conventional ways.
  • “Through what channels” is now online as well as in-store and increasingly wireless – anytime, anyplace. For example, Amazon.com recently reported that is now selling more e-books than hardcovers as readers in large numbers are turning to digital channels such as Kindles, iPads, and BlackBerry smartphones to get their reading materials. Additionally, digital channels are increasingly simple – with a one-touch, one-button, any-screen, real-time interface. And we are moving quickly to one-command voice activation across a range of applications.
  • Finally, the “effects” are dramatic as they transform everything from politics, health care, and education to the way we purchase and listen to music, read books and newspapers, and keep our parents connected with their grandchildren.

The Digital Transformation

But we are not talking about history. The digital revolution is just beginning. What we now see and experience are still early-stage, digital communications – including networks, devices, and applications. Still, these innovations in the digital space are increasingly driving innovation in every sector of our society. Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn and peer-to-peer sharing such as YouTube are among the most visible. These innovations are changing everything from the way we communicate, seek new opportunities, and stay in touch to how we do business, market and sell, service customers, and generate ideas for solving problems with customers – even as they raise questions about privacy, security, and the meaning of “friendship.”

Less visible is the dramatic expansion of the use of networked digital sensors by which we increasingly manage everything from our automobile’s tire pressure and engine performance to large-scale assets such as machine maintenance, bridge safety, and building security. This revolution in managing the engineered world is spawned by what I call “sensornetics,” an emerging industry that uses digital technologies including the Internet to achieve the active management of engineered assets through machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-people (M2P) channels. The key to many of these innovations is the availability of high-speed broadband networks – and especially wireless channels and the mobile Internet.

More people are now accessing the Internet through small mobile devices than bulky PCs. Consumer choices confirm what I have believed for many years and what I have observed as CEO of media and telecommunications companies in 25 countries, high-speed broadband technology – and especially the mobile Internet – is the way of the future. The wireless Internet is the foundation for a new rush of innovation, a new era of productivity improvement, and increased competitiveness for those firms, industries, and nations that learn how to use these technologies as embedded assets in the management and operations of public, private, and not-for-profit enterprises. High-speed broadband and the mobile Internet also facilitate three important social trends that are going on simultaneously: globalization, localization, and personalization.

I experienced first-hand the impact of high-speed access in Australia after we made high-speed wireless broadband (now 42 Mbps in the largest cities and 21 Mbps to regional and rural areas) available to more than 99 percent of the population. Our mobile Internet was a game-changer for many businesses, government agencies, non-profits, and consumers in the cities as well as the outback because everything changes when you can do things faster and on the move. Staying on the cutting edge of digital technologies is essential to remaining competitive and is required to achieve world-leading results. Today that includes access to a high-speed mobile Internet which greatly facilitates conducting business and living in real time.”

In Australia we made the future happen as we created a high-speed mobile Internet and saw it in action. Some of our milestones included:

  • Providing both enterprises and consumers with access to a mobile Internet with network speeds of up to 42 Mbps, soon to increase to 84 Mbps;
  • Giving consumers access to more than 30 channels of live TV on their hand-held devices – including local TV news and sports as well as international news, such as CNN and CNBC;
  • Helping construction companies download drawings to remote sites to coordinate jobs in real time without sending managers on the road to deliver change orders;
  • Enabling health care providers to transmit screenings from rural stations and mobile vans to central interpretation facilities in far-away cities in minutes, improving efficiency and patient care; and
  • Facilitating farmers’ use of wireless telemetry to remotely manage irrigation systems – conserving water, saving money, and reducing carbon emissions.

Digital platforms – and especially the mobile Internet – include society’s most important new infrastructures and applications, and the impact in terms of sparking innovation will be as far-reaching as electricity, the railroad, the Interstate highway system, the container ship, and other infrastructures. In each case, these are the platforms that provide the connections that create and sustain the wealth and prosperity of modern society. That’s why we must aggressively pursue bold investments in telecommunications, especially by the private sector and especially in high-speed broadband and the mobile Internet.

I have dedicated my career to advancing new technologies that respond to the needs of consumers and improve the way our society can protect and advance our collective and individual interests. I encourage you to look around this site to learn about how I have experienced the digital revolution. Remember, we are only as good as what we do tomorrow so I encourage you to connect with me so we can join with others to make the promise of tomorrow happen.

Sol's Biography

Solomon D. (“Sol”) Trujillo is a global telecommunications, media, and cable industry executive born in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1951. He has served as CEO of large-cap media-communications companies in the US, the EU, and Asia-Pacific regions. A digital pioneer and long a champion of high-speed broadband to stimulate productivity and advance innovation across all sectors of the economy, Sol is actively engaged in media-comms businesses in both developed and emerging markets, from China and South Asia to North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He sits on corporate boards in the US, EU, and China – including Target and Promerica Bank of Los Angeles, where he is vice chairman; China’s Silk Road Technologies, where he is chairman; and Weather Investments, headquartered in Rome with investments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.