The urge to control corporate messaging can be difficult to resist for even a specialization-obsessed economics sector like the electronics industry. It's a move that's worth resisting, though, because the payoff is limited and the outcome could even be negative.
The golden age of specialization was championed by electronics manufacturers and few other industries take as seriously the mantra to focus on “core operations.” In this industry, many OEMs hardly see or handle their products and there are numerous semiconductor companies that do not have fabrication plants. Foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and GlobalFoundries (once a part of microprocessor vendor Advanced Micro Devices) produce semiconductor wafers for fabless chip vendors. Companies like Qualcomm and Broadcom have blazed a trail that IDMs (integrated design manufacturers) like Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, NXP Semiconductor and others have followed.
The waves of outsourcing and specialization cannot be rolled back anymore. But some companies in the electronics supply chain are nonetheless going outside their core business in an attempt to influence the enterprise message. Eager to cultivate a deeper relationship with customers some software vendors, chipmakers and component distributors have expanded direct outreaches to the electronics community, relying on new media tools they control to push their messages.
These companies are providing more than datasheets and product specs information. In cases, they have established quasi-news websites and other dedicated digital media resources for direct dissemination of information to customers, suppliers and the general public. A software vendor even has more than 15 seasoned journalists on its payroll to write articles for publication in internal organs and mainstream media.
Of course, this bothers me but not for the obvious reason – competition. When chipmakers and distributors enter the media business they become direct competitors to companies like Electronics Purchasing Strategies. That’s fine. Competition is good. Without it complacency sets in and the customer gets less than optimal service. My concern isn’t about the fact that the competition may erode sales or reduce my company’s operational performance. Not at all.
Anytime a company invests outside its core business it will pay a price. I understand why a company may want to control the information that goes out about the enterprise and how it’s packaged. However, the negative impression given is that the business is trying to manipulate customers and suppliers. Eventually, the readership sees through the ruse; it suggests propaganda.
There’s a greater danger here, though. The electronics industry graveyard is littered with the carcasses of companies that took their eyes off the ball in a wrongheaded assumption that they are serving customers by tacking on offerings better handled by others. Such programs consume resources and distract executives from the core business of the enterprise. It takes more than money to set a program in motion. The time spent conceptualizing, planning and executing non-core activities is time taken away from regular business functions.
Simply handing over these media functions to an ex-journalist won’t completely relieve management of providing direction and managing resources attached to the roles. It’s just one more unneeded task for already overburdened executives. I wonder, too, about the other non-essential functions companies that do this have added to their operations. Hence, the questions: What is your company’s actual core business and has it, in good faith and with great intentions, strayed too far from it; Are you packaging electronics for the customer or propaganda?
Bolaji Ojo is editor-in-chief and publisher of Electronics Purchasing Strategies. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone who promises to base his sometimes biased, possibly ignorant, occasionally irrelevant but absolutely stimulating thoughts on the subjective interpretation of verifiable facts alone. Any comments should be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.