Two successful business transformations close to my heart

I’m a computer geek and I’m a motorcycle rider.

So when Lenovo recently announced its new sponsorship as Title Partner of the Ducati MotoGP Team, Ducati Corse, I was in heaven.

But not just for the obvious reasons.

I want to paint a personal picture of my passion for Ducati and Lenovo, and the transformation both companies have successfully completed. Both companies have reinvented themselves, and it’s fascinating to compare what both companies have gone through to remain leaders.

Beauty, power, speed

For the past 40 years Ducati has been a V2 engine company. That’s what Ducati is known for and what I grew up with, that’s Ducati’s history, that’s Ducati’s brand heritage if you like.

Here are the three that I’ve owned (so far):

I love Ducatis and I’ve been lucky enough to own three over the years. Left to right: Monster 1200S, Monster 695, Superbike 848.

A good proportion of motorcycle riders judge a bike on its sound. I can sit in a bar, get a coffee, and on a good day, I can tell you with 80–90% certainty what bike it is that I just heard go by without looking. In the US for example we have the iconic Harley Davidson, which has a V2 like the Ducati, but has a very different sound, and very different engines.

I can’t even explain these sounds to you, the way that the bikes react, their behavior. Every machine has its own soul, and every machine is unique.

Transforming a business, not just the product

I read somewhere earlier this year that V4-powered MotoGP bikes have won 44 of the last 50 MotoGP races, and topped the speed charts at 47 of the last 50 races. The “word” is that a shorter crankshaft is the reason, enabling smoother power delivery and overall engine performance.

In 2017, when Ducati made their official announcement, I couldn’t believe it, and neither could many other Ducati fans. True to their heritage of innovation, Ducati rolled out the biggest change to their engines since the introduction of L-twins. It was new and unexpected V4!

It was that type of a moment. The world as we knew it was changing!

Since the 1970s Ducati was known for their L-twin engines, not the V-twin as you would think at first. Engine design was innovative and unique where one cylinder is vertical and one is horizontal making it an “L”. Key is a desmodromic valve design with an active closing valve mechanism which allows faster opening/closing without loss of power. In the mid-80’s they got another pair of valves, becoming Desmoquattro, creating the base for perhaps all of their bikes today. I had an opportunity to put a few laps on a DB1 in the early-90’s and it was absolutely the best bike I ever rode.

So, new technology trends put pressure on Ducati’s L-twin model. As they had historically, they had to transform. And they had to transform not just their engines, but their business model, their attitude, their company. And they had to do this without abandoning their heritage, and what made them uniquely Ducati.

Looking at the past three years and the performance of V4’s on the racing circuit, and the incredible growth of their V4 product line, I would say with high confidence their transformation was successful!

In my view, their new V4 engines are works of art. Version 1.0 in 2017 was epic, which I must admit doesn’t happen very often in software. Take a look at their Desmosedici GP, their current racing machine. I’m sure you agree it’s awesome.

Drawing a parallel

It’s very easy to draw a parallel to Lenovo.

Lenovo’s heritage is as a device company.

We’d performed very well on the back of the quality and performance of our devices, for consumers, businesses, and for data centers. For many, the TrackPoint button in the middle of a ThinkPad’s keyboard is still a sign of quality, reliability and performance.

And as we became number one, we changed the strategy of the business, like Ducati.

For both companies, this was fundamental. For Ducati, moving to four cylinders. For Lenovo, moving to solutions — software and services.

So I think this is where the two companies come together very successfully, because we’re successfully executing on our business transformations. Not a lot of companies can do that, and Lenovo is a big ship to turn.

I think both are successful because both moves reflected what customers wanted and demanded.

This is listening to the market, following the trends that are driven by customer needs, adapting and staying a leader by being flexible, and by listening to the customer.

It’s about going to the next level — the next level of technology, the next level of customer innovation, the next level of customer focus.

I think that Lenovo is transforming as successfully as a company can, and our recent results bear that out.

OK, I’m biased, of course, but I’m also biased about Ducati motorcycles. To me, both are unbelievable stories. They’re the same, built on a focus on loving the customer, loving the technology and having a passion about what we do.

What enabled Ducati to step from the shade into the spotlight was to have the nerve, the foresight and the technological ability to move away from their heritage — not to abandon their V2 past, but to evolve to take on new competition.

They broke historically from where they were, to recreate themselves.

I would say it worked pretty well.

#ForzaDucati #WeAreLenovo

(For the record, I currently ride an MV Agusta Brutale with “measured” hope of upgrading to Ducati #4, the new V4 Streetfighter.)

Vice President of Cloud & Software at Lenovo