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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Different Path same Destination

Our world is changing dramatically, Stock Markets have become more like Roller coasters, many businesses are now satisfied with sustainable business models as opposed to rapid growth and many technology companies are suggesting that hardware and software sales could be in for a difficult time. The result of all of this? Zero to Low confidence within businesses on their journey of business evolution as they continue on their journey in the increasingly global and competitive landscape. At this point I can already hear a few people wondering how this has anything to do with the common topic of my blogs, the impact of technology on the world we live in? Well it does, so let me explain.
Today’s businesses and technology are intertwined to such a degree that you can’t look at one without understanding the implications, limitations or even changes required to the other. Many CXO’s that I speak to lately are concerned with the balancing act they are facing – how do they invest in technology to ensure they can support their business requirements but at the same time manage a tight rope balance of cost vs. business benefit without knowing what is happening in the next 3 months let alone 3 years!
Many businesses are offering increased flexibility in their products but they are equally concerned with their own business models and outlook resulting in their own business concerns. On that basis it is time to throw out the guide book and reconsider business models for a new era, a period of sustained unpredictability as a vehicle for change. I have said it before in one of my blogs, we as individuals and society drive technology, we should not accept that technology will limit our own choices or for that matter determine our own path to success. Consider for a moment what would happen if we knew our oil would run out (I know not a pleasant thought!), we would adapt and look at alternatives to ensure our needs were met ensuring we could continue with our journey as we already are starting to do so!
Each and every business has a vision or a goal they are seeking to achieve over a 3 to 5 year period, many are concerned that the current instability in the market is placing that goal at risk. What is required is for businesses to reassess the path they are taking to achieve their goal. It may take longer, it may require acceptance that they are evolving from a straight highway to a windy mountain path, which requires a more graduated approach to ensure the business does not slip backwards as it progresses towards its goal.
Once we have identified the new path to achieve our goal and/or vision businesses can then look to what role technology could and will play in supporting the journey along that path. This is a crucial pause point, looking to technology in the same way as we have done in the past will simply result in reliving “Groundhog Day” (for those of you who don't understand that analogy watch the movie!). We need to look at the principles of what technology can provide in its simplest form and redesign the manner in which that technology is both delivered/implemented and supported. What I mean is we need to look at how we reshape the use of technology, from its commercial, integration and utilization aspects. Business are looking for new ways of working as they seek to break the cycle of change they find themselves in today with various factors pulling their decision making in different directions.
Technology can support businesses in continuing their journey to their goal by ensuring that communication and IT developments are not static and that they can be moulded to the needs of the business. The end benefit of this approach is a return to three year planning, an increased confidence in formulating longer term decision making and commitments … Why? Simply because if you know that your business can access levers across your organization from commercial, technology, geography and people in order to adapt to your changing business environment then your business will equally grow in confidence and will increasingly develop an inherent ability to adapt and anticipate market change.
On that note I leave you with two final comments – Stay on your path, your vision is the key to the sustainability of your business and remind yourself that technology is only an enabler. Accept that the path to realizing your goal may change and that it is your adaptability as a business that will result in the greatest chance of achieving success!


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts Nathan.

A couple of comments.

I would agree that the whole 3 year planning thing is at risk - risk of extinction. This does not mean that vision is no longer important but the volatility you speak off means that more than a “screen wipe” is going to be necessary to see past your toes, let alone three years down the track. In this environment two things become important; adaption and risk reduction. After a short pause for thought, one can sometimes see that there is a significant opportunity for technology in an environment of short range radar, rapid adaption and risk reduction. Technology can have a positive impact in the world of the CXO – particularly if it is not necessary to own it! One vivid trend I am seeing daily is a decision to outsource IT. Why commit to long term ownership if you can’t see past your toes? Why manage it if customisation is needed monthly to fit changing business needs? Why support it when that same human capital could be employed more productively? Why invest in it when risk of ownership and obsolesce can be past to others – for a small monthly fee? The point here is the path to realizing future goals will rely on technology – but will not rely on ownership of it.

Kevin Moss said...

Hi Nathan, sorry for the late comment, but hopefully a late comment is better than not at all !

Great ideas in this post, but I think that most important for all of them is having a business goal with meaning in the first place - a goal that conributes to the betterment of the world.

With a meaningful goal, the plan to get there has purpose rather than just existing in a vaccuum of growth for growth's sake.

What does that have to do with IT and communications technology ? Technology itself is neutral. It is what we do with it that counts. So we too need to be purposeful in our business aspirations.