As a senior leader of a business and technology consultancy, it’s easy to get weary of directives like “DISRUPT!” “INNOVATE!” and “DOMINATE!” 

When I reflect on the last decade, there is one characteristic that has helped SDLC Partners evolve, change and grow despite, or in reaction to, regulation, technology and – most importantly – our clients’ needs. 

It’s maintaining our stability and being nimble enough to take advantage of strategic and market opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times when we have to re-establish the balance between the two, but when I think about what we’ve done to be successful, four areas stand out that I’d like to share.

ONE: Distraction is your enemy – by competitors, disruption, innovation, and too many opinions.

We’ve talked in previous TEQ articles about “shiny object syndrome.” Distraction and dilution of efforts is, in my mind, one of the most dangerous diseases to infect an organization, especially at the management levels. 

While you need to be mindful of what is happening in the market with competitors, as you build your strategy, stay focused on executing YOUR best strategy. 

Striking the right balance between improving your core capabilities – that are serving customers today – and creating a culture that can innovate is a worthy focus.  Our leadership has worked very hard to encourage development of new capabilities while finding ways to disrupt our business model and the market overall.

And while external sources are great for helping shape your strategy, you and your team know your business, where you want to be, and the gaps you need to address to truly execute. Stay true to your vision and hold tightly to your focus with an open ear to your most valuable sources of insights and feedback.

TWO: Stable AND nimble organizations can create dramatic change with a lot less risk

Organizations who can master the process of evolving their legacy systems and existing processes while engaging new markets, products, and consumers, have one thing in common. They are both stable and nimble. They can create meaningful and dramatic change upon a solid, reliable foundation.

CFOs love this approach, as do CIOs, because they lean towards conservative, pragmatic risks. CEOs and CMOs want to shoot for the moon and tackle the audacious growth goals.

Your core platforms and capabilities need to be stable for you to maintain customers and revenue. This allows you to dedicate time to creating new business models, capabilities and delivering methods.  

Many customers we speak to are balancing all three. They are improving the way they deliver the existing capabilities, re-architecting and leveraging new technologies, such as cloud, to allow them to scale. These “improvements” create the solid foundation that will allow them to be nimble – leveraging techniques such as agile and design thinking – to change how they deliver value to customers. 

 

THREE: Strive to be stable and flexible in four areas – People, Process, Data, Tech

There are four pillars to your organization on which you have the strength and stability to grow and innovate. 

For each of these areas, we want to improve, develop and disrupt. Doing all three can accelerate change and increase customer and employee satisfaction. Once you’re confident in your capacity to innovate, create a small innovation group focused on exploring advanced technologies, leveraging techniques like a Lean Start-Up approach to pilot new ideas while you address the underlying systems of the organization. 

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a very current example of this. It’s a topic that comes up in almost every conversation we have with customers right now. Companies can gain the advantage that bots bring by optimizing or rethinking end-to-end processes that support the customer journey. RPA, AI and machine learning can be catalysts to create enterprise-wide programs that change the tone and sophistication of the organization. Employees can do fewer manual tasks and focus on higher-value areas where only humans can add creativity, unique problem-solving and the personal touch.

Striking this balance is like running with your team in a potato sack race. The winners always work in harmony, moving forward at the same pace. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start thinking about how to disrupt your business or market, but you can’t forget about delivering value to your customer today.

FOUR: Stable AND nimble requires three actions for each of the four foundational areas

If there’s one concept that I hope I reinforced here, it’s that executive leadership can’t confidently charge into disruption and innovation without ensuring that key parts of the organization are stable. I believe that any path should include these three priorities.

• Protect and maintain integrity within each area

• Harness and optimize each area 

• Create new value from each of the four areas

While advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning and block chain will dramatically change and enhance how businesses operate and deliver value, people will still play a critical role in the equation. For the four pillars to work, don’t forget people development and infusing the culture with the stable-flexible philosophy. 

Building while balancing will provide the foundation for sustainable success no matter the market or economic trend.