In the new digital world, you need new people in new seats on the bus

In Jim Collins’ seminal book, Good to Great, he makes a very compelling case that getting the right people in the right seats on the bus is more important than your business growth strategy. While that may seem counterintuitive, in the new digital world I think it makes perfect sense. Why? Because with the level of unprecedented disruption businesses across all industries are facing, companies need leaders who:

  • can deal with ambiguity
  • can make decisions without all the facts
  • can embrace rapid iteration
  • can lead cross-functional/cross enterprise teams
  • can privilege core over context
  • can balance short-term deliverables with long term goals

This is never more true than for the CIO and the senior IT leadership team. Any company trying to transform itself into a digital enterprise must be able to leverage new technologies (Social, Mobile, Cloud, Data Analytics, IoT) as an integral part of this effort. In fact, the CIO will often need to take the lead in communicating the company’s “digital value proposition” to internal stakeholders (business unit heads, product development, sales, marketing, finance, compliance and HR) and external stakeholders as well.

“Houston we have a problem”

For many companies, the current makeup of their technology resources are not aligned with the new skills and capabilities necessary to successfully drive digital transformation.  As the chart below illustrates, the vast majority of current IT resources are allocated to supporting the legacy functions in the left-hand column. While those systems of record still need to be maintained, it’s the new systems of engagement and systems of intelligence in the right-hand column that will drive digital transformation.

In the new digital world, to address this problem, companies need to recruit, develop and retain a whole new set of skills and capabilities that don’t currently exist within the IT organization. For example, companies must embrace an outside-in design thinking approach in order to deliver compelling and enduring customer experiences. That is very different from the traditional inside-out user interface design approach being deployed across most companies today. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an either-or problem it’s a both-and problem. There just has to be a major reweighting of resources to the right-hand side of the aisle.

Achieving Technology Leadership Competency

The other point to make here is that this is not exclusively an IT problem, this is a company-wide problem. IT cannot shoulder the full burden of digital transformation but rather must do it in collaboration with all the other key stakeholders across the enterprise and external partners if necessary. I wrote about this in an earlier blog and made the point that companies have to make all their senior leaders technology savvy and technology conversant.

As such, the CEO needs to take the lead and talk with the CIO and Head of HR about clearly defining the relevant skills and capabilities needed and then how to leverage workforce analytics to improve candidate quality and accelerate their recruitment. In some cases, this will entail identifying current employees who have the desire and aptitude to move into these new roles and with the proper training and development can succeed in them.

As a recent Forrester brief stated, “Access to talent and the ability to hire the right people at the right place will become a huge competitive differentiator.”

Where should we start?

Here are some ideas for how you can start getting your technology resources realigned to support your transformation to a digital enterprise:

  • Identify the relevant skills and capabilities your company will need to compete as a digital enterprise

    • Convert those new skills and capabilities into new job descriptions
  • Assess the current level of those skills and capabilities within your existing workforce

    • Identify any gaps that need to be addressed
  • Provide the necessary training and development tools to close those gaps
    • Reach out to VC firms and startup companies for best practices

For example, companies who want to move to the forefront as a digital enterprise will need:

  • Product managers who can clearly communicate the key customer touch points and how digital interaction will enhance them
  • Business analysts and data scientists who can extract critical insights from mountains of structured and unstructured data
  • User experience design experts and design-oriented content managers who can seamlessly and securely connect systems of engagement with systems of record
  • Development engineers who can exploit the time to value benefits of Agile, Lean or DevOps
  • Business leaders who are comfortable with launching a minimum viable product (MVP) and utilizing rapid iteration to make changes based on end user feedback

The path forward is pretty clear. CIOs and senior IT leaders who develop a comprehensive workforce plan will find, develop and keep the critical new skills needed to drive digital transformation. For those who don’t, they and their teams will be relegated to a caretaker role with little or no influence on the future competitive performance of their organizations.

As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspectives on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me at

Increasing the ROI on Innovation Investments: Sustainability-Driven Innovation

Are you looking to maximize the ROI on your innovation investments?  SingingDog co-founder and Top Dog, Phil Metz, has teamed with Peter Moore, President of Wild Oak Enterprises, to deliver this.  How?  By integrating Metz’s Sustainability-Driven Innovation techniques with Moore’s powerful and proven Offer Power framework for delivering innovation results.

Metz’s research has shown that sustainability – far from being a “cost” and barrier to innovation – can be a powerful lever for revenue growth and profit.  A few examples:

  • Interface’s biomimicry-based “Entropy” carpet tile product line has grown to represent over 40% of sales, and is widely emulated by competitors.  In Operations, Interface’s Mission Zero® recycling program targeting zero environmental impact by 2020 has been a major force in increasing sustainability – and reducing operational cost.
  • Method Products views sustainability as a business opportunity.  The company’s products, such as its 8X concentrated laundry detergent and phosphate-free automatic dishwasher detergent, have enabled Method to achieve high visibility and revenue growth – while competitors scramble to catch up.  And Method has done this in the slow-growth home cleaning products market dominated by global giants such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever
  • MBA Polymers recycles plastics from complex waste streams to deliver, “drop-in replacement” polymer feedstocks that require less than 20% of the energy needed to produce virgin feedstocks from petrochemicals.  As reported in a recent SingingDog blog post, MBA feedstocks have garnered major contracts with Electrolux and other global leaders.

Why does this work?  Not by accident!  Each of these companies has attained its business success by embracing sustainability as a “core operating principle” and “business mindset” to drive innovation.  This conceptual shift alters every innovation action across each enterprise:

  • What products should we develop?  What technical competencies do we need?
  • How can we improve the customer experience with these products to maximize ROI on our innovation investments?
  • What techniques should we use to develop these products and roll them out?
  • How should we operate to reduce cost and increase efficiency?

But how can you roll this out in practice to maximize ROI on the innovation investments at your company?  Enter Moore’s powerful Offer Power framework comprising three “playbooks” for delivering results.

  1. Differentiation:  Have we created a truly unmatchable offer?
  2. Neutralization:  Have we gotten to good enough fast enough?
  3. Optimization:  Have we reclaimed unproductive resources and deployed them against differentiation or neutralization opportunities?

Understanding how to maximize the ROI on a portfolio of innovation investments is an exercise in staking out the three distinct offer power positions above that can help fuel your company’s future performance, specifically above-market growth rates with above-market risk-adjusted returns.  What makes this decision-making process challenging is that it is essential to develop three separate and distinct innovation work streams and project teams in order to maximize the benefits of each one. By using the Offer Power framework and tools, we are able to help our clients overcome these challenges and deliver the full ROI potential from all three.

Want to try it out?  Contact us to learn more or to schedule a half-day Chalk Talk or one-day Facilitated Custom Workshop.

I’m back…

It’s been 6 months since my last blog post and while I don’t like that it’s been that long, I can tell you the time has been well spent developing our new Chalk Talks and Workshops on the Evolution of Enterprise IT from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement. This change will not only reorder the competitive landscape in most industries but it will also fundamentally change to role IT will play within most organizations.

The Consumerization of Enterprise IT and A New Playbook for IT workshops are designed to provide you and your organization with an overview of this transformative change and how companies can create and sustain competitive advantage by getting out in front of it.

We are in the early stages of this emerging business model and in 2013 you will start to see more posts on a variety of the aspects and implications of this transformative shift.  In the meantime, we are committed to helping you and your organizations achieve optimal success, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with us.

Welcome to my One Step Ahead Blog

I will use this blog to periodically share with you my insights and thoughts on emerging issues and challenges that will confront established businesses in what for many is an unprecedented period of time. I will from time to time also include other people’s ideas and insights as I don’t begin to pretend to be all seeing and all knowing. The blog will address a wide range of issues including:

  • How companies can find the right balance point between funding their current businesses and making asymmetrical investments in next generation businesses.
  • What is the unique work of the CEO?
  • Why being able to distinguish between what’s important and what’s urgent is the single greatest predicator of CEO success.
  • The distinction between leadership and management and why making asymmetrical bets is the only way to deliver material new revenue and profits from next generation businesses.
  • Leadership 3.0 – what if everything you were taught about creating and sustaining competitive advantage is no longer true?
  • The Ugly Truth – 90% of all corporate wounds are self-inflicted.
  • How to create true alignment between the C-Suite and the Board of Directors on a company’s business growth strategy.
  • The power of full engagement and how to achieve  it in your business and personal life at the same time.

As I am a great believer in interactive dialogue, I will look forward to reading your comments and contributions to the blog whether they agree with or challenge mine.

Peter Moore

Wild Oak Enterprises Website