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Creating synergies that transcend national, geographical, and organizational borders: Chief Global Strategy Officer - Mitsuhiro Murooka

The NEC Group currently employs approximately 110,000 personnel at 284 locations in more than 50 countries. To keep pace with the changing times, NEC has changed not only the products and services it provides globally but also its business model and organizational structure. Mitsuhiro Murooka, appointed NEC Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Global Strategy Officer (CGSO) in April 2024, has long embraced this kind of transformation, particularly while driving new initiatives overseas.

"NEC employees all around the world share the same commitment to providing value. There are no borders." Based on this belief, Murooka is committed to creating synergies that transcend national, geographical, and organizational differences. His words reveal some of the many facets of the global transformation NEC is now undergoing.

──You have played an active role in NEC's global business, what have you learned from assignments that included Hong Kong, China, the United States, and Australia?

I was 30 years old when my aspiration of being assigned overseas finally came true. This was after repeatedly pleading with my boss for a chance to prove my ability to advance NEC's global business. I spent eight hectic years in the bustling business environment of Hong Kong, where I was involved in launching new businesses and other projects. It was during this time that I also took on the challenge of studying for my MBA, which provided me with the opportunity to experience the following words first-hand, "You'll never gain awareness unless you try, and nothing new can be created without awareness." Over the years, there have been many times when we have tried new things and taken on projects that were unprecedented for NEC, which means many decisions had to be made amidst uncertainty. However, making decisions like that and following through with them has allowed us to gain awareness and unlock new possibilities.

──NEC's business has undergone continuous change throughout its 125-year history

NEC has been doing business overseas for about 70 years. In the past, our global business was focused on exporting products from Japan and primarily revolved around mission-critical systems associated with social infrastructure, semiconductors, mobile phones, and other hardware. Aside from our submarine cable business, an industry in which NEC is ranked as one of the top three companies in the world, we have transformed many of our business segments and shifted our focus to software and digital services. One example of this is our Digital ID solutions utilizing face recognition and other biometric technologies. This is in addition to broadening the scope of our business activities among Telecom Services, where we have welcomed companies like Netcracker, as well as enhancing digital services for government agencies and banks, where NEC Software Solutions UK, KMD and Avaloq have joined the NEC Group.

By pivoting to a business focused on ICT-enabled digital solutions, we have been able to create a business model that is more deeply rooted in each region. In line with this, we are implementing various changes toward globalization from a truly global perspective. For example, we have established Centers of Excellence (i.e., hubs for company-wide business development) and research laboratories promoting the research and development of AI and public solutions in many countries, and numerous presidents and executives from NEC's international affiliates are local hires.

──NEC also underwent a major organizational change in FY2023

The Global Business Unit, which had previously been a single entity, was recently dissolved and transformed into a structure in which business operations are carried out under each of our business units. NEC is also in the process of launching a matrix structure with the new perspective of promoting business globally. Amidst all this, there have been times when we’ve had to make major decisions, such as whether or not to retain businesses. While decisions like these are painful, they have to be made in order to achieve profitable business growth. It is crucial to take an open approach to promoting tough strategies like these, gain the understanding of our employees, and ensure openness is instilled within the company.

──Do you find it difficult to understand employees from so many different backgrounds and to harness their collective power as a team?

It is important to guide people into relating with one another, and to drum up excitement for the many cultures and mindsets among our employees throughout the world. Examples of this include the workshops and face-to-face round table discussions that we organize to allow members to get to know and connect with one another. Through these activities, I have learned that if you create an organization with a friendly and comfortable atmosphere you will generate a sense of shared vision and enable the members of your organization to improve themselves. This has been an incredibly inspirational experience for me.

──You were recently appointed to lead NEC's global business strategy as CGSO

I spent a long time working overseas and have experienced a wide range of conditions. This created a strong desire in me to be a leader who understands those who are on the frontlines of our business development. Although my official post is at our head office in Tokyo, I proactively venture out to visit customers and engage in direct dialogue with our global employees. By doing this, I have learned a great deal about the various challenges being faced by colleagues regardless of location, and I have made a point of directly conveying my desire to ease their concerns as much as possible. These are meaningful interactions, and I would like all members of the NEC Group to be aware of the great work our colleagues are doing around the world.

──The NEC Group is striving to become a truly global company

Going forward, NEC's global business will be carried out in a holistic and optimal manner with our business units identifying strategies from a company-wide perspective. We must make the shift from a vertical silo mentality to an open mindset enabling cross-organizational co-creation. Therefore, we will be working on getting matrix management to take root from a borderless point of view. As CGSO, I maintain a broad perspective and actively initiate discussions with management team and business division members from around the world, which enables me to see the big picture from inside the company, outside the company, and on a global scale.

In addition, we are promoting the hiring and training of global talent for key positions. To create synergies in a multicultural environment that transcends regional, divisional, and organizational boundaries, our employees need to gain a wide range of experience. By providing more and more opportunities, we are fostering a culture based on our HR policy of creating an NEC for those who seek challenges. My hope is that each and every member of the NEC Group will understand the meaning behind the transformation we are undertaking on a global scale, become the driving force behind it, and shine as individuals.

──Going forward, what kind of social value will NEC deliver to the world?

While the business domains of the NEC Group may seem largely invisible to the general public at first glance, they are actually vital solutions and services supporting mission-critical infrastructure for society, government, business, academia, and individuals.

Ultimately, the key to building our reputation and achieving profits is the ability to provide exceptional services to our customers that they can fully experience and appreciate. At NEC, our Purpose is to "create the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential." To fulfill this Purpose, we will contribute to the world by approaching our customers with sincerity and earning their trust. Based on the trust we earn as a global company, I am confident that NEC will be viewed by the world as an innovator capable of delivering both economic and social value that only we can provide.