Learnings from Fujitsu’s micro-enterprise experiment

Webinar Rewind with Professor Stijn Viaene and Michael Verveckken

Stijn Viaene

By Stijn Viaene

Professor of Digital Transformation

28 June 2022

Surfing on the wave of digital transformation doesn’t have to mean rebuilding your company from scratch. In fact, experimenting with your operating model can happen while sustaining your traditional business model. But how can you do this? And what challenges does this entail for enterprise architects? These and other questions were addressed during a webinar organised by the Vlerick Centre of Enterprise Architecture and Digital Design.

In this webinar, Stijn Viaene, Professor of Digital Transformation, exchanged ideas with Michael Verveckken, Managing Director at Fujitsu Belgium. The panel offered some interesting insights and perspectives on how a company can successfully experiment with alternative operating models during a time of digital transformation.

Like many other companies, Fujitsu noticed the rapid changes in the market and customer demand. The company set out to experiment with a new operating model aimed at finding a new balance between driving new business into the market and sustaining its traditional outsourcing business. Fujitsu introduced the concept of micro-enterprises (ME) in 2020 as a pilot project in seven countries.

Michael Verveckken explains: “A micro-enterprise can be regarded as a micro-business within Fujitsu, with a few employees and its own CEO. These MEs are encouraged to act entrepreneurially and are allowed much more room for experimentation. The ME concept was introduced as a way of empowering people and allowing them more freedom to act like a start-up.”

Webinar Rewind - Fujitsu

Webinar Rewind: Learnings from Fujitsu’s micro-enterprise experiment

Webinars can be an inspiring source of insights – but you may not always have time to watch them. That’s why we’ve created Webinar Rewind – a series of short videos that take you through the top highlights from our webinars. In this edition, Stijn Viaene, Professor of Digital Transformation, exchanged ideas with Michael Verveckken, Managing Director at Fujitsu Belgium. 

Is the experiment considered a success? Michael Verveckken: “Between the different MEs there are different learnings as they develop their own capabilities. These learnings are shared among the different enterprises. The capabilities, if possible, are scaled to other parts of the business.” One example of a successful ME is Fujitsu’s Blockchain Centre, which started up in Brussels. The Blockchain Centre works with customers and partner organisations, many of them start-ups, by helping them to create sustainable business through supply chain transparency. This focus on sustainability is no coincidence, as it sits at the heart of Fujitsu’s Purpose. Michael Verveckken: “From a business perspective, this might seem small. But it attracted a lot of visibility which eventually resulted in a nomination of the centre in the 2022 Forbes Blockchain Top 50.”

The operating model experiment also comes with challenges. Michael Verveckken: “The biggest challenge is the speed and how fast these MEs can create capabilities and scale them. Two years in, parts of the existing MEs have successfully developed new capabilities, while others did not. The question now is how decisions can be made to scale or to stop, without losing too much freedom. It is challenging to find the right balance between imposing too many guidelines (and killing innovation) and avoiding that the MEs act too much like different companies.”

This is where Enterprise Architects come into play. They can help ensure the MEs work towards common goals, coordinate resource allocation, and work towards creating composable business building blocks. Thus, Fujitsu started an enterprise architecture community to share stories, practices and lessons learned. This should help develop EA into a role, that can be taken up by many people, rather than a function or separate department.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the introduction of the MEs into Fujitsu means less focus on its traditional outsourcing business, on the contrary. Michael Verveckken describes it as ‘a push and a pull’. The micro-enterprises are pushing the portfolio by generating new digital capabilities and wading into new technology and business waters. The outcomes of their work should, ideally, be leveraged by the current business to create new opportunities and partnerships for Fujitsu’s existing customers and partners. This makes finding the right balance and synergies between Fujitsu’s new ME-driven and its traditional service business a key goal for Fujitsu’s leader.

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Stijn Viaene

Stijn Viaene

Professor of Digital Transformation