Commentary: Transforming businesses in the technology age
EVERY BUSINESS IS NOW a technology business. The changes required to compete though are not directly related to technology. Expectations of business leaders must radically transform. Every company executive, business unit leader and business product owner must embrace a bias for speed, norms that support continuous innovation, an ongoing focus on simplification, and accountability for execution.
Enlightened business leaders who understand that priorities need to be determined on a frequent basis in fast moving markets will run laps around their competitors stuck in yesterday’s annual planning mode. Market success will be determined by delivering quickly on the business leader’s understanding of the things that customers value. Failing fast may be acceptable on how one approaches delivering on a business priority but failing to continuously define priorities will likely prove fatal. Who in your organization is closest to understanding what your customers value and regularly articulates those priorities?
There is much talk about disruption and the implication that technology is the cause. Most industry disruption though has been a function of simplification, providing customers with what they want and an easier way to buy. Disruptors didn’t need to develop new technology, they leveraged existing technologies focused on what their customers valued.
The supposed technical talent shortage isn’t a quantity issue. The issue is focus. The corporate world has too many technical employees focused on commodity infrastructure and legacy applications support. Historically the corporate world utilized “body shop” contractors focused on software development — individual contractors working independently, being trusted to deliver comprehensive capabilities crucial to delivering customer value. The firms that have successfully shifted from being disrupted to prevailing are now contracting commodity technology services, eliminating technical debt legacy and employing the technical talent that enables the firm’s customer value priorities.
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The manufacturing economy became far more focused after Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems were implemented that measured cost, quality and time. Manufacturing companies learned what parts of their operation functioned well, where they needed investment to improve, and where they were better served buying (consuming) rather than making. ERP exposed the weakest links and highlighted dependencies. Manufacturing firm leaders were held accountable in real-time for how well they delivered competitive value to their customers. It is rare to find firms in the technology economy, dependent on their “technology factory,” that have an ability to articulate their costs, quality or value even annually with any degree of specificity.
The crucial leaders for today’s business transformation are the business leaders responsible for defining and articulating priorities aligned to what the firm’s customers value. Businesses must employ the right technical talent aligned to what business leaders continuously articulate as customer value. Providing those business leaders with relevant measurement data, guides and affirms business value.