Adjacent and Relevance are fast becoming some of the most important words in the IT Services conversation today. Discuss.
A while ago It felt to me that the word Perspective was the dominant word uttered by people in the IT industry – whether it be customers, suppliers ( sales ) , and manufacturers.
A meeting wouldn’t go by without someone making a statement ( or speech ) about how they saw things ‘from their perspective’. initially when I realised this was happening I would sit back and wonder what the word perspective really meant. Of course for a customer there is a strong case for them to have the ‘right’ to put things from their perspective because they are the customer, they own the relationship, they pay the bills – they have the power.
Then you would hear suppliers and consultants introduce ‘perspective’ into their dialog, and whilst of course there is a perspective from all angles, it struck me that it was often being used in an incorrect sense.
For example, I often heard situations where the customer may have had a strategy to do something new, or had a specific negative issue causing business pain, to which the supplier would use the word ‘perspective’ to appear to defend their failure to meet the customer’s requirements ( price, service or response time to a system issue ).
It appeared to be a ‘justification’ for not stepping up. It seemed to exempt the person using the word from any liability. Slowly the word perspective became the norm as the conversation between customer and supplier started to separate, because deep down the customer was asking themselves this …’Is the person ( representing their organization ) in front of me relevant to what I need to do?’
Now when I play this back to myself I begin to consider ‘Am I relevant’? ‘ Do I have anything relevant to contribute?’, ‘ Is what I have to sell actually relevant anymore’.
Let me tell you. Asking yourself the relevant question is a great way to make you sit up and consider your conversation. Its not a negative then of course ( well it could be ). No its a way of challenging oneself to make sure you work that little bit harder on your proposal, presentation, contract or conversation.
And then I picked up and excellent book called The Elastic Enterprise by Vatalari and Shaughnessy, which by the end I had established in my head two words perhaps rarely used together ‘Adjacent Relevance’.
The theme set is simply around how forward thinking businesses that transform themselves into even more successful organizations have common characteristics that make then stand above their competitors. The book discusses successful global organizations such as Apple, USAA, Google, Amazon, GE, Caterpillar and their unique ability to master management, visibility and agility to maneuver swiftly in new economic environments, and out compete their competitors. Being Adjacent and Relevant is what these organizations do best.
What I love about this book is that it has an emphasis on the IT organization and how the foundations of technology today – cloud, gamification, social media, partner coexistence, mobility, universal connectors (APIs really ) and so on – are the essential building blocks of these organizations today. Can you imagine Amazon’s or Google’s IT organization not being Adjacent nor Relevant to their business plans. But I am sure you can think of many others closer to home that are.
Vatalari and Shaughnessy talk of business operating models, process transformation, the dreaded ‘innovation’ word and how closely IT aligns to business objectives. Using examples of how true Leadership, humans and machines, scaled interaction and elastic resources really hit home.
As you get into the book you are struck with the beautiful simplicity of how Apple, GE, Amazon just cannot fail to be successful in almost exponential strides.The example of RSS ( Really Simple Syndication ) was one of my favourites, describing how a free utility is now driving ‘free’ methods of distributing content. Ever subscribed to the Huffington Post? You should do as this is an online only news organization created completely from content distribution using RSS. ( By the way Huffington was recently sold for $300M!).
You also reflect on some notable failures where the lack of ‘adjacent relevance’ caused business disruption. Remember Cisco’s Flip video camera? Or Kodak? Or BlueCircle and lawnmowers?
You see what I realised from the book was that as organizations seek to open up or expand market share they seek to drive into adjacent markets, quite naturally as it leverages maunfacturing, marketing, people , market awareness and so on. However, I was shocked when it appears that less than 15% of organizations who take on an adjacent strategy actually achieve any notable growth. So it means there has to be something else.
Look at Amazon.They totally demonstrate ‘Adjacent Relevance’ beyond comprehension with their move from being an online bookstore back in 1995 to now a publisher with Kindle Direct. Plus the ‘adjacent and relevant’ move into Cloud Services which now makes them a ‘relevant’ partner for many large IT organizations. Who would have thought that when they first used Amazon to buy a book, a kettle or a pair of trousers.
Now back to Perspective. Suddenly your perspective of a client who is sat opposite you with the challenge of how to make their IT organization ‘adjacent and relevant’ to a business that itself is seeking ‘adjacent and relevant’ business transformation change, has dramatically altered. What you originally thought with your products and services that they would be good fit for the organization has near but all disappeared. Now you are faced with having to justify your ‘stuff’ and overcome one of the killer questions ‘ How do your products and services make my strategy more adjacent and relevant to the business goals.’
So instead of using a pretty meaningless ‘from my perspective’ how about we all try and make sure before we open our mouths we have considered what the client needs ( because we should know this right? ) and structure our persona, characteristics and output in the frame of being ‘adjacent and relevant’ to what the client is looking for. It might be we look at a product we have and sit back and consider how we can make it more ‘adjacent and relevant’ to other products, other services and so on. Or we look at a service we provide and then consider what the customer is doing with their business, and look at ways to make the service more ‘adjacent and relevant’ to helping them meet their goals.
Easy to say but not easy to do sometimes , but you know what….go get the book and see if you see the same…………it may help you. It has me.