Commentary: Trans­form­ing busi­nesses in the tech­nol­ogy age

Business a.m. - - TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION - Joe Blomker

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.

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