A two speed world is emerging. The slow down in the developed world of Europe and North America, and the speed of growth in the BRIC nations , has radically altered the business landscape. Remember the recession? Well this has a lot to do with this. organizations how have to rethink strategies for go to market propositions often requiring a speed that would have been unthinkable in the early 2000s.
Competing with traditional competitors for the high margin business is now merged with differentiating with foreign and smaller competitors in low margin high volume markets. Doing what they did in the those heady days of the 1990s doesn’t cut it anymore. Innovation is now no longer a buzz word, and agile processes to create business models quickly to create market share are now normal. People use the world lean in ways never dreamt of before in the wider economy, and the disciplines of the manufacturing sector for codifying how ‘things get done’ are smashing together with the world of digital marketing where ‘things get done bloody dam quickly’ to create products and services that 10 years would have taken a decade to build a value proposition, client base and sustainable profit margin business.
These organizations battling the challenges of running at two speeds are working hard to manage the transactional side of their speed one business ( which they need to maintain for their classic client motion ) whilst developing agile and innovation goods and services that open up new markets, stand up new initiatives and compete aggressively in the digital marketplace against timescales unthinkable a few years ago. They have mastered the art of codifying what they need to do and then just get on with it.
And then there is the IT organisation. Stuck in the middle of this speed for growth now facing identical challenges for a two speed world yet lacking a way of codifying what a Speed Two IT service looks like. On the one hand ( Speed One ) there is the traditional transactional nature of running an IT service necessary to support the business to do business. Pretty much in the 21st century this is a function best outsourced to the automatons of cloud and managed service providers with a twist of local control and subject matter experts. Technology like virtualisation and broadband has simplified running IT to a keeping the lights on activity.
And on the other there is the ‘de facto’ speed two digital strategies – social, mobile cloud and information – that are now considered to be the battle card of the modern CIO and CMO. Or put succinctly the Nexus of Forces as per Gartner Research.
Lets delve a little deeper and set some context. An IT organisation might be a client but it could equally be a supplier of goods and services or a niche IT consulting practice. It may be an old fashioned word but the Channel is a nice word to sum up the people on the other side of the client fence.
The characteristics of a Speed One IT organisation versus a Speed Two IT organization quite often is dramatic and can be summarized as below.
The words I use are deliberately emotive, and the truth is that neither speed one nor speed two is better than the other. In fact the sum of the two halves ( or speeds ) is actually what makes and IT organization strong.
But let me pick out two phrases in my little diagram.
(1) Have long experience clocks – a mouthful but one very telling characteristic of a Speed One IT organisation where the bulk of the people have ‘been there’ for a long period of time, and whilst have seen a lot of technological change, may lack the ‘agility’ and ‘foresight’ to provide Speed Two guidance to the organisation’s business leaders. Again this may also embrace IT sales people, consultants and management layers. No one is immune from the risk that ‘staying too long in a Speed One track’ gives you only a one sided view, which whilst was fine in the early 21st century is now considered as a ‘negative’ if the person the other side of the desk is a Speed Two type.
(2) Nexus of Forces – a group of people that are totally aligned to how the four characteristics of the Nexus of Forces, and can take the Speed One components of an IT infrastructure and build services that allow the organization to compete faster and smarter. Typically these people are not the same people with the long experience clocks of working in the same organization. They tend to move about picking up relevant skills and insight that help them build their capability and relevancy. The latter word is key. Often these people are not readily accepted by Speed One people, and suffer from a round of internal politics.
Critics of this definition of Speed One and Speed Two for an IT organization will cry out that there is no distinction, and that the industry are now fully intertwined into both speeds. Other critics will say that all this talk of Speed Two is fluff and lacks the governance and structure of what running an IT organization is all about.
People who diss the idea that having a Speed Two focus is necessary are seeking ways of codifying the discussion before they accept it. They live in a world that has mature processes and controls that allow the Speed One transactional business to thrive. There is nothing wrong with this at all. Yet any one who turns up and ‘talks’ in a Speed Two manner often attract uncertainty and doubt – “if it doesn’t have a part number or serial code then we cant sell it”. The irony is that the Nexus of Forces presents many ways of codifying success and it those Speed Two organisations that have just gotten on with it who are reaping the benefits.
I heard an anecdotal example of an IT business that decided to become Speed Two and setup a separate business stream alongside the cash cow transactional business which was running a risk of declining. Originally they thought that the Speed One business would decline and the Speed Two business would grow. In fact, they found that both sides of their house grew because the cross fertilization of skills and passion for success become endemic. They had a way of codifying the Speed Two business. and had Speed Two people who kept the Speed One people close and spent time ensuring
At the end of the day it boils down to two things for me.
- Organisations that decide to become a Speed Two business yet decide to do it ‘next year’ or ‘next month’ may often be left behind. Strategy in serial may not cut it anymore.
- Organisations that decide to run in parallel their Speed One and Speed Two operations have a fantastic chance of success.
There is no guarantee and hard work is a bedfellow of both speed one and two – of course.
Dam – I meant to describe how to Codify a Speed Two IT organization. Sorry. Another time.
P.S. Remember the cloud is not a part number!!!!!!