Connecting the Dots at Microsoft: Global Planning for a Local World (a)

10 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2017 Last revised: 4 Jan 2019

See all articles by Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat

Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School

Jenny Craddock

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This case is set on the verge of Microsoft initiating a TV white-space pilot in the Philippines in the summer of 2013; the uncertainty surrounding the new technology's performance in the region provides a view of the risks organizations face early on in the innovation process, particularly when decisions are decentralized and overseen at a local level. MS and its public partners in the Philippines were excited about the possibility of setting up the country's first TV white space-enabled broadband network in a remote area that required the connectivity for fisher registrations and government biodiversity initiatives. The technology had proven its success in a few other pilots in Singapore and the UK. In the Philippines, however, risks loomed. Unprecedented complications from an untested hardware supplier and a lack of an essential database arose as the launch date approached. A key decision MS had to make was whether to proceed with the pilot or focus on TV white space pilots elsewhere. The case introduces students to methods through which they can identify the sources and types of uncertainty associated with a project. Through this they can better evaluate the tradeoff between undertaking a project with a high risk of failure and the benefits that could be obtained through learning about unknown unknowns within such a setting despite the outcome. Moreover, students uncover the necessary conditions for projects to achieve their objectives within this setting. The public-private partnership setting allows students to analyze the type of uncertainty associated with a project; the project, product, and organizational complexity; stakeholder objectives; and discuss the role escalation of commitment could play when an organization seeks to pilot a new technology.

Excerpt

UVA-OM-1560

Rev. Sept. 7, 2017

Connecting the Dots at Microsoft: Global Planning for a Local World (A)

In the summer of 2013, Paul Garnett, then the director of the Technology Policy Group (TPG) at Microsoft (MS) Research at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, was in the process of reviewing a TV white space (TVWS) project in the archipelago country of the Philippines. Garnett and his entire team at MS had long been hopeful about the prospects of this groundbreaking technology as a means of creating affordable broadband networks, but their efforts to pilot the technology were anything but standardized.

Despite the excitement surrounding the potential to develop a broadband network in a largely unconnected country, a number of items remained open for MS. Garnett questioned whether MS was targeting the best opportunity to pilot the technology in the remote Western Pacific nation. Did the value it could gain outweigh the challenges? Beyond the prospect of an unknown radio supplier and a nonexistent database, Garnett was keenly aware of the criticality of testing the technology in various environments, with new partners, to foster the technology's global diffusion and to continue to gain greater regulatory cooperation from local governments. If MS pulled the plug on the pilot, would it be prevented from collaborating with the Philippine government, and others, in the future?

Microsoft Corporation—An Overview

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Keywords: global innovation, new product development, project management, unknown unknowns, executing strategic initiatives, public-private risk innovation

Suggested Citation

Hutchison-Krupat, Jeremy and Craddock, Jenny, Connecting the Dots at Microsoft: Global Planning for a Local World (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OM-1560, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2975040

Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Jenny Craddock

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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