Last updated: November 15, 2006 2:53 am

Sony chief rides ‘perfect storm’

Sony will turn the “perfect storm” of problems in its battery and PlayStation divisions to its advantage, according to Sir Howard Stringer, its chairman and chief executive, who hopes to use the recent crises to accelerate management changes he began 18 months ago.

“I think the crisis created opportunities, which I think we’ve taken advantage of,” Sir Howard told the Financial Times as he spelled out his hopes that this week’s launches of the PlayStation3 games machine and a James Bond film would mark a turning point in the group’s fortunes.

“The only thing you get in a crisis is you can accelerate plans, because you can demonstrate that had we had more open communication, both of these problems would not have been so obvious,” he said.

Describing the battery and PlayStation problems as “a product of the past”, and their confluence as coincidence, he said Sony had now appointed a product safety officer and created “a system of escalating incidents” to alert senior managers to problems through regular reports.

“If we had had communication between the various departments the battery incident would have surfaced a while ago and could have been dealt with at the time instead of a kind of all-encompassing crisis,” he added.

Sir Howard said these were not “an overnight solution” but “I think the organisation isn’t fighting me any more, if it was”.

Senior managers had accepted that his “Sony United” mantra was “no longer a Powerpoint message [but] a method to reposition the company for the digital age”.

His comments came as other members of Sony’s senior team expressed support for the strategy of greater integration between its content and hardware assets. Managers from divisions as diverse as the SonyEricsson mobile business and Sony Pictures were in London on Tuesday to highlight the integration of Sony products and marketing with the new James Bond film, Casino Royale.

Their remarks came as Sony claimed an early success from selling out its first batch of PlayStation3 models in Japan but faced criticism amid reports that the new systems would not play games from older models. It will launch the PlayStation3 in New York at midnight on Thursday.

“People see these changes but this was kind of a time-out to recognise that we need to move faster and we have started to move faster and it gives me the opportunity to say look, we are going into a different competitive arena,” Sir Howard said.

“We are beginning to understand that technology development, software development has to accelerate in the networked world and we’ve now put managers in place to accomplish it.”

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