1 April, 2021 | Written by: Sabine Vanderlinden and Holly Cummins
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Practical strategies to accelerate the delivery of your future growth initiatives
A collaborative chat between Sabine VanderLinden – CEO & Managing Director – Alchemy Crew and Holly Cummins – STSM Innovation Leader – IBM Garage
We do not have a choice. Our world must become comfortable living with a heightened level of uncertainty. Learning from the recent crisis has helped businesses digitise faster than many others have in the past. Still, we now need to digitise consistently with internal and external experts eager to engage, learn and execute together really cool solutions and solve some of the most pressing societal problems we have yet to encounter.
Both Holly Cummins, Innovation Leader and strategist within the IBM Garage and I had the pleasure to chat recently. We discussed how we respectively engage with the business and developer communities to effectively scale ideas within large enterprises.
One of our beliefs is that this is done by connecting in unique ways essential drivers of change with operational and technological priorities and translating pertinent issues through mobile-first digital services that users want to interact with and use.
Continue to read to find out more.
What is the current reality faced by businesses around the globe today?
Speed of change is our current reality. Helping businesses make better choices in transforming their operation, and their products is also an essential part of the equation.
In the UK alone, over 15% of businesses are at risk of permanently closing by the start of April 2021, according to a recent ONS Business Impacts of Coronavirus Survey (BICS). These businesses are often clients or partners of larger enterprises. This shows that thinking laterally and preparing for the worst must become part of a business’s strategic planning and DNA, regardless of where one sits within a business unit or across the value chain.
It is clear that every business out there, large and small, must become a forward thinker. These organisations must forecast and anticipate changes before a shift occurs. They must be prepared to tackle a series of forward-planning scenarios and unforeseen changes to mitigate the potential risk arising from the impact of economic circumstances. They must also be able to respond rapidly, even to changes they didn’t anticipate.
Why are those challenges so significant today?
Today’s customer is certainly not tomorrow’s customer. And failing to prepare to meet emerging segments’ needs would be poor judgment and ill advice. For instance, the skill and the talent required to deliver on these emerging customer demands are still being evaluated.
In insurance alone, we have seen distribution models evolving within the spheres of motor, home and travel insurance, with digital assets starting to take more importance within our lives.
Millennials combined with Gen Z will represent at least 66% of the working population by 2030, with the highest purchasing power in history. Thinking that the products and services we have on the shelf today will fulfil the demands of a highly experience-led and environmentally centred customer is a fallacy, as we have often seen in history.
Today, only 51 US companies are on the Fortune 500 list still. These companies represent 10% of the entire Fortune 500 list from 1955. Indeed, the current market disruption shows that almost all of today’s Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist as currently configured. They will unbundle. They will re-bundle and will likely be replaced by new companies in new industries, as we have seen with the emergence of new technology categories such as FinTech, FoodTech, FashionTech, HealthTech and ClimateTech, to name but a few.
These new industries require speed of delivery, from ideation to execution of new concepts into practical solutions. These solutions require technology right, left and centre. Let’s remember that we have seen in 10 months, over ten years of digitisation taking place. Businesses had to become overnight entirely virtual operations while continuing to deliver more tactical plans, regardless.
The industry that was able to gain the most from this change is undoubtedly HealthTech and Wellness, with telemedicine platforms becoming the core part of this transformation. Over 250 growth ventures received $4Bn in funding in just one year.
Global, interconnected and customer-oriented economies are becoming prominent everywhere globally and in the UK in particular. They are driving the dynamism of innovative ideas and transformative executions. An example lies in our big cities’ future, with an expected 8.5 bn global population by 2030. We will see megacities seeking to balance living standards to cater for affluents and vulnerable people. Technological enablement becomes a catalyst for professionals to operate digital businesses from rural areas. The evolution of connected living demands that we test new ideas through technology, continuously iterating concepts to transform individual lives, businesses and cities at large.
We must keep this momentum to shape, refine and reinvent the businesses of tomorrow.
What top bets must businesses contemplate to accelerate their growth and competitively scale?
Steve Jobs stated in one of his famous quotes:
“you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Indeed, we must accept that today’s success requires outside-in thinking, an explicit empathy towards users willing to experiment, and trusted execution partners with the approaches that can yield relevant outcomes. Often, this requires not one partner but ecosystems of partners. Every company believes that they deliver fast against set requirements. Then, they realise that their speed of delivery is sub-optimal compared with top market players. Still, they do not know how to combine the essential execution parts to accelerate their speed of delivery. We understand that the process must be outcome-led and include incremental feedback loops. This is where IBM Garage becomes a safe place to triage and trial value-generating projects in small chunks via rapid iterations centred on the most critical user pain points. We can then concentrate on making things that people want in a mindful and informed way.
Technology on its own isn’t enough, but technology can be a great enabler. The cloud has enabled new ideas to reach the market at a more incredible speed than ever before. A good hybrid multi-cloud strategy supports flexibility, resilience, and deep integration of an enterprise’s data sources.
Businesses must assemble layers of flexibility, agility and collaboration to evaluate complex problems, curate options, determine the alternatives with the highest success rate and survive any market dynamic by intensifying business resilience and executing with start-up speed. This also entails that execution teams must be multi-disciplinary, including those people proficient in the art of business strategy, design thinking, sprinting, as well as DevOps experts able to build the digital solutions able to fulfil internal and external customers’ demands.
This warrants that innovation culture must be embedded from the outset. This also calls for enterprise siloes to be dismantled to allow new flows of thinking to emerge and measurable results to be achieved. Innovation must address business priorities; it needs to be driven by user empathy, business cases, evidence-based analyses, and excellent data sources.
How to get such companies enterprise-ready?
1.) First, to get an enterprise-ready to scale at start-up speed, you must make an internal “execution jump”. This means that a business must deploy best practice approaches required to discover, evaluate and execute the most effective digital solutions at scale. For instance, it’s surprisingly hard to be frictionless. We all love the idea of making things friction-free for external users. Still, we must make this friction-free for internal users too with methods, approaches and tools that continuously adapt to the circumstances at hand. While each audience requires different results, the process of achieving them is very much the same. We must zero in on delightful user experiences that make developers want to produce top-notch software that is robust and high quality. By giving them a safe environment, IBM Garage has seen development cycles and minimum viable products reduce from months to weeks and then iterated rapidly. Effective execution requires businesses to optimise for feedback and shorten delivery cycles by automating and digitising wherever possible. With the proper, modern practices, these lean delivery processes are more robust and resilient than older, overhead-intensive processes.
2.) Second, you will need to shape a genuinely multi-disciplinary team able to leverage open innovation approaches and design thinking techniques. Having various perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds in the team leads to better ideas and effective delivery. Techniques such as design thinking can help create alignment and allow teams to solve challenging problems. The world is changing rapidly, so expect the skills you need in your team to change regularly too. Hire for a growth mindset rather than a static set of credentials. Modern, multi-disciplinary teams need to be willing to upskill and apply new techniques. A business and tech combo in the same room creates magic. We have seen collaborative engagements and partnerships, achieving +67% in speeding outcomes through “diversity of thoughts”.
3.) Third, you must identify your winning partners with the values, beliefs and purpose to align with your strategic lens on the future. With current increased interest within the ESG and sustainability spheres, we understand that alignment across multiple industries’ value chains is now a priority. We also need to ensure that appropriate metrics are put in place to not distract developers from their end goals, for instance, by communicating more inclusive development behaviour. Being open and looking outwards bring new ideas, skills, and tools into your business. Co-creation is vital to maximising the value of the partnership, as is co-execution.
4.) Fourth, you will need access to architectural, technical, engineering and data experts with a clear understanding of how to combine at scale the best-emerging tech to fulfil your digital transformation vision. These experts must understand how hybrid cloud, big data, AI and cyber, among other emerging technologies such as edge computing, can yield the services that every customer expects from their provider. Don’t just hand tasks to the experts; work closely with them so that knowledge flows in both directions. At its core, IBM Garage’s three prompt-approach recognises the value in iterative reliability.
- We co-create via expert-led design thinking to produce those minimum viable solutions.
- We co-execute through iterative delivery utilising lean methodologies, a collaborative way of prioritising user stories to test and launch new solutions iteratively.
- We co-operate to upskill and embed new cultural mindsets through our self-directed courses and badge credentials. It only takes eight weeks to a minimum viable solution, and our data shows a 102% return on ROI.
“Working iteratively enables all of us to take bigger risks. We first deliver small releases with a few small changes. We gain confidence in our achievements and then still keep going forward with small fulfilling and measurable steps.” Holly Cummins
5.) Finally, businesses should have a bold desire to acquire relevant growth businesses to ensure that every disruptive concept can scale alongside their business.
Why do you know this is a way forward?
Today’s growth businesses are challengers demanding the delivery of tangible outcomes. They appreciate that current realities require an outside-in open innovation lens on the future, which is aligned with the critical needs of multiple stakeholder groups.
Scaling requires methods and the proper structure, processes, governance and culture, particularly when adopting new technologies. The goal is to start small with a project where we can safely gather evidence. We then scale success to a new project and another team until it permeates corporate disciplines, encouraging unique collaborations.
Insight and growth will come from data and the ability to execute that data in unique ways—one of the reasons well-designed cloud infrastructures augmented with AI and edge computing are becoming gradually the technology differentiators every sizeable business needs.
Learn more about the IBM Garage: https://ibm.biz/Bdf2JJ