The business perspective: Ambition and differentiation
December 12, 2019  

Supplied by entelect2013 Administrator from entelect2013
As outlined in the previous chapter, the life of a disruptive solution in an established enterprise should always start with a vision. The vision for where an organisation wants to be, what it looks like, and what it offers in future is where innovation happens, as opposed to putting out fires and only addressing the problems that exist now. The business aspect in the lifecycle is critical to the success of the solution. Ultimately, the solution is simply a tool to facilitate the ambitions of the business and possibly differentiate from competitors. This chapter looks at the important facets in a successful solution regarding alignment, evaluating value, mitigating risk, assigning accountability, and understanding the operations of the business.

 


As outlined in the previous chapter, the life of a disruptive solution in an established enterprise should always start with a vision. The vision for where an organisation wants to be, what it looks like, and what it offers in future is where innovation happens, as opposed to putting out fires and only addressing the problems that exist now. The business aspect in the lifecycle is critical to the success of the solution. Ultimately, the solution is simply a tool to facilitate the ambitions of the business and possibly differentiate from competitors. This chapter looks at the important facets in a successful solution regarding alignment, evaluating value, mitigating risk, assigning accountability, and understanding the operations of the business.

 

01. Alignment: Stakeholder buy-in and alignment

After the process of exploring and defining a vision - which stakeholders from different areas in the business should be part of - a consensus must be agreed upon by the stakeholders. Key decision-makers, including executives, managers, and operations, must have an understanding of exactly what is trying to be achieved and how it will impact their respective areas. The proposed solution should be well understood and in alignment with existing initiatives and tactics, or at very least, not directly hinder them.

Innovative solutions usually challenge the status quo which causes uneasiness among stakeholders, and challenges the existing tried and trusted ways of doing things. However, if the need for change is embraced, driven top-down and transparent, then the energy and willingness of teams are boosted, which usually reduces friction.

 

 

 

 

02. Value: Data-driven decisions


It tends to be easy to make decisions based on gut-feel and push your ideas because, well, they’re your ideas – you want to add value and be recognised for doing so. But this becomes dangerous when an idea, or at least the core mechanics of the idea, have not been validated.

 

It can’t be disputed that people with years of experience in an industry or business understand underlying trends and invisible consequences of actions, but that intuition is based on the past. Businesses have thrived via traditional models while making small tweaks to react to the market and demands of the consumer. But rapid advances in technology require one to take a step back, and apply knowledge and experience while taking some risk in trying something unheard of.

 

This risk can be mitigated by making decisions based on data. By utilising data from sales, retention, behaviour and usage, operations, and the respective costs for those areas, decisions can be based on facts rather than a hunch. Analysing competitor performance where they have adopted similar approaches is also useful in validating the viability of a solution. Although these techniques do not eliminate risk completely, they provide guidance and informs decisions going forward.

 

 

03. Cost vs value


One of the primary considerations for embarking on an innovation project is the cost versus value to execute. What is the return on investment? When will it start making a difference? As with anything, a return on investment, especially a big one, is not guaranteed. However, there are different approaches to consider that can reduce costs, and ease sceptical minds. These approaches include design sprints where ideas are fleshed out, prototyped, tested, and reported on during the week before a large project is undertaken.

 

Another approach is minimum viable product (MVP) based development. The controversy – MVP is often misunderstood as “what we have plus these things”. An MVP should simply contain the “what we have”, or the “plus these things”, or do something different. Migrating existing features to a new technology is not an “innovation” project; it is good practice if a legacy system is no longer viable. Sure, this might enable future innovation, but we’re talking about truly doing something differentiating.

 

The most successful approach is to embrace change and accept failure. To accomplish this, you commission a team to work on the new project, but priorities are decided on at each sprint, or each month. If they need improvement, great – iterate. If they don’t work, throw them away. If the entire idea is doomed, disassemble the team. The cost of running a team on a month-to-month basis while testing ideas and reacting to them is always cheaper than commissioning a team for a long period of time, with a constrained specification and no room to adapt to the ever-changing business and technology landscape. Every cost that yields learning is valuable – the trick is to strike a balance. Cost of learning must be accepted, however, learning and never leveraging it for business value can be detrimental.  

 

04. Risk: Change management and service design


Apart from the cost of development, the biggest risks in these projects are more related to change management or service design. The individuals in the organisation have learnt the lay of the land, and it is human nature to resist change.

 

The management of training, education, and roll-out with everyone on the same page is a difficult feat if not enough attention is paid to it. This is true for customers as well. Organisations often change their offerings and receive backlash from customers even though the new solution is objectively better – humans don’t like change. Strategic thinking and a pragmatic approach are needed.

 

 

05. Risk: Consistency over big bang


Another risk is in setting immovable deadlines for releases of big chunks of the solution. This usually ends in a sub-par experience, poor technical quality, or unmet expectations.

An approach to mitigate this is to release smaller iterations faster, test the behaviour and impact, refine, and repeat for every aspect of the solution.

In implementation, this can make expectations difficult to manage – but if it was easy, everyone would be a world-class, bleeding edge enterprise. More often than not, consistency is more sustainable and successful in the long run over big bang releases.

 

 

 

06. Accountability: Decision making


Although there should be buy-in and alignment among a variety of stakeholders, there must be an individual owner and decider. This person should have the strategic insight of the organisation, have autonomy in making critical decisions, and influence change. This individual must lean on others for different insights and direction, but ultimately, projects that rely on many people for approvals typically create blockers, lose momentum, and drain energy due to bureaucracy. Making decisions as a committee is almost always nuanced causing long wait times or poor outcomes due to a single individual not being invested and held accountable.  


 
The decision-maker must be available and decisive. Do you need to allocate office space for this special project? This person should be able to make the call. Need to provision an account for a specific technology or platform? This person should be able to make the call. This individual is ultimately responsible and accountable for the solution and people involved in making it happen. Furthermore, the individuals that comprise the team should have autonomy and use their discretion for micro decisions that need to be made on a daily and hourly basis. By embracing this, measuring solution performance, and being open to iterate and fail, magic happens.

 

07. Priority and communication


Friction in priority and communication are common themes in innovation projects. Everyone is excited and looking for how they can leverage the initiative. Having a single solution provide direct value to multiple stakeholders in different departments within the organisation can be problematic. It is obvious that each stakeholder will look out for their own department first and negotiate for their priorities. A strong owner must be able to understand the needs of the different stakeholders, prioritise, and communicate what will happen, when it will happen, and why that decision is preferable.  

 

08. Business Analysis: Understand operations at all levels


It is important to understand the operations of the business from all levels. For example, what are the economies within the business, what is the average customer acquisition cost, what is the process followed in branches, what daily planning happens for different teams. A general understanding of these facets reveals hidden mechanisms which mould the solution, helps address problems before they happen, and creates champions for progression in the employee structure if they are involved and heard from the beginning.  


 
After looking at the processes that exist in the business, hidden business rules, exception cases, and ways to handle them emerge. This understanding allows for consolidation of business rules, simplification, and leaner operations. These rules will also be changed and/or developed into the new solution being developed. With more unknowns comes more complexity, cases to cater for, and uncertainty.  


 
Although embracing iterative development, failure, and learning is good, this does not negate the need for a concise and understandable functional specification. This could be a document, but more preferably, user stories that both business and technology teams can understand. The use of collaborative tools to track stories and share details about them is invaluable to productivity. These can manifest in story boards, wikis, and other tools that improve the productivity of everyone – do what works for the people.

 

 

09. IT and technology


There is a chapter about technology later, but at this point in the journey, it is critical to involve and build rapport with the existing IT teams. Generally, IT divisions have been a function within the company that took care of the infrastructure to enable individuals within the organisation. This included overarching concerns such as provisioning of computers, managing networks, managing software licences, and sometimes developing solutions.

 

 

 

 

In this day and age, IT is part of almost every business function. IT skills and decision makers are mandated to build and maintain technology. For this to be successful, business and technology must work together and cannot be separated concerns anymore. Involving IT teams in at the beginning creates ownership, buy-in, and energy to work together rather than receiving tasks with little context over a wall. Understanding the existing IT landscape is useful in planning ahead. Existing adopted technology should not stifle the technology decisions for the solution, but planning for how it can be incorporated as seamlessly as possible is a real need which is better embarked on earlier rather than later.

 

Ultimately, the success of any solution, whether it involves technology or not, is centred around people. We need to facilitate communication and alignment in understanding, mitigate risk, forecast value, and learn from what we do. With these fundamental principles, solving hard problems becomes easier.

 


Read the full From Here to There publication here.

 

 

 

 


Home | About Us | Offerings | Track Record | Giving Back | News | Careers | Contact Us
PAIA Manual | Privacy Policy | As per statute: www.sacoronavirus.co.za |
© Copyright by Entelect. All Rights Reserved.