Nine questions to ask during a strategic shift

questionsI was talking with someone the other day about a strategic change they were contemplating and what it takes to adopt a new approach, strategy or tool. They were looking for guidance on the issues that might disrupt their efforts. Rather than just answer the question specifically, I thought about it from a process perspective and attempted to answer their need more generally:

Nine questions that will help improve your understanding of the impact and implications of events that may disrupt your plans. This approach attempts to look at the issues from the outside in.

  1. What is happening today? Look for the events or cultural trends that support or imped the change you’re trying to make. We have lots of examples today of cultural disruption and individuals being blindsided by cultural perspective, learn from their mistakes.
  2. What does it mean for others? Look at how the change will be viewed. In many cases perception is reality. Will others really need your solution?? What will it take to keep up with demand, when they do???
  3. What does it mean for you and your team? What are your motivations and will they sustain you through the entire process of change – making a change can be lonely.
  4. What needs to happen first? Every change requires a bit of triage. You can’t eat the elephant whole, so where would you start to increase your likelihood of success.
  5. What does it take to be a change agent? Unfortunately, just because you want to do something different, you will not necessarily be ordained by others as someone to follow. Do you have a vision?? Do you have the relationships needed to initiate the change??? No person is an island. To be a leader, you must have followers.
  6. Do you know what needs to be done next? Change of almost any size requires a plan. We already looked at what needs to be done first, can we make an unstoppable train of events that will carry the change through to completion – plan on it. Also look for measures of success so you can adjust along the way.
  7. When is the solution needed, is this the right time? Every change has an optimal time for it to take place. If now is (or is not) the time – why??
  8. Who will be affected? It is as important to understand who will be crushed under the wheels of progress, as who will be elevated by the change. Thinking about the implications of all the affected parties will greatly improve your plan and its effectiveness.
  9. How much investment will be needed? I’ve kept this until the end, not that funding isn’t important but based on the fact that if you haven’t thought about these others issues you probably only have a vague notion of what it will take to be successful. If you have the right camp of supporters, it can significantly reduce your funding needs. Similarly, if you’re going after the wrong market or don’t have the right kinds of support, no amount of funding will make your efforts successful.

There are likely some gaps in this thought process, but this approach been helpful over the years, maybe it will be useful to you too.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen

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I survived my first day at SAP #SapphireNow

The one area that both surprised and interested me most on the first day had little to do with the analytics or IoT space (although I did have some interesting discussions in those areas too). It was the SAP approach to their on-line store.

They have had many on-line stores in the past but now they are taking a different more ‘digital’ approach that is focused on selling direct to the consumer. This will change the relationship with the user and the enterprise based on consumption. This could disrupt their traditional buyer, the SAP sales force as well as their partners that perform system integration and consulting. It will be interesting to see if this level of change can take place without too much disruption.

By selling tools like Lumira with a free version, then a low friction purchase option with a credit card a business could easily see this tool enter into its portfolio of resources without their knowledge. They have implemented the purchase process so that if a feature of a premium version is needed you are dropped into the store. Anyone who has done on-line gaming recently has likely run into this behavior. This kind of stealth selling is inevitable and will accelerate the kind of shadow IT has been discussed for years.

I asked the people at the booth about what happens when someone buys it on their own version and the company purchases a master agreement. The answers varied a bit but the individual has a choice to roll into the agreement or continue to pay on their own. Look to the terms and conditions (that no one reads typically) for the details.

There is also the concern about who will support anything that gets created once the business becomes addicted. Everyone likely remembers the years of Excel Hell. Hopefully that will not happen but I am still checking into how change management elements can be put in place for end user developed elements.

My greatest concerns is that the traditional command and control IT organization will be very frustrated by this, while the digital purists will be confused by the resistance – it may be just outside their contextual understanding. SAP stated they will be opening these capabilities up for 3rd parties to sell their capabilities and that will have its own problems. Service providers usually sell apps as a mechanism to facilitate up-sell into consulting and integration. SAP is trying to ensure what gets into the store is valuable on its own. Some of the service providers will likely have a hard time understanding these implications as well.

It was stated (many times) in the first day that business models are changing and SAP seems to be doing its part to be disruptive, even if most of its customers haven’t internalized the implications.