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Elevator Speech: Part 9 of 9: While Transforming the Business…

February 14, 2012

It has been a long journey, but we are at the last part of my elevator speech. It started out with my sharing of what has made me and my teams tick over the years:

Deliver high quality solutions on time that are innovative, delight customers, win reviews, and disrupt competitors; all while having fun, being ethical and transforming the business.

Now I’ll decompose “[while] transforming the business…” This is a critical component of being successful in this industry. It isn’t enough to simply maintain status quo as one incrementally improves their solution for their customers. You have to really look at what it means to create new opportunities for the business to seek new revenue streams from new areas. No matter how good you are at what you do, there is always a much better way to solve the problem. It is also a reality that the problem you are solving today may not be the problem your customers need to have solved tomorrow.

Transforming the business is having the foresight and the ability to go above and beyond the simple process of ratcheting up your current solution(s) with incremental features and enhancements. You have to be able to take a step back and ask:

  • What transformative industry trends, technologies, and shifts in the competitive landscape will impact my current customers and how they do business?
  • What can I do that is “outside of the box” to help my customers (existing, new, or both) get there first? To greatly enhance their revenues by doing so?
  • What adjacent markets and problems can I address with a change in what I do today?

If you are not asking these questions I can guarantee you that some of your competitors are and a number of scrappy start-ups are already ahead of you. If you are not asking these questions today it is simply a matter of time when your solutions will become irrelevant; at some point all solutions get relegated to the Legacy Boneyard. If you are not asking these questions today and executing on the answers then you will not have future revenue streams tomorrow.

Just think what would have happened had:

  • Microsoft elected to simply keep enhancing DOS…
  • Apple elected to stay focused on alternative desktop and laptop computers…
  • The folks who founded Amazon, Salesforce, or Worday decided that there was nothing to be gained by entering markets already dominated by well-established players with tried and true solutions…

So how do you do this? You have to proactively carve out the time, materials, and resources to do this. Many companies and individual teams focus heavily on two things: Maintaining what they have today and adding incremental capabilities that add new features / functionality. All too often these two components can gobble up a 100% of your time and budget. In order to transform the business you have to be innovative and to do so you have to proactively carve out a reserve that guarantees that you have the time and money to dive in to transformative efforts.

What is the right balance? 10%, 20%, 30%, heck even 70%? I cannot tell you that number. What I can tell you is that it cannot be 0%. I can also tell you that leaders in innovation are north of the 20% mark. At a minimum it has to be a number that lets you achieve “critical mass” in terms of being able to actually accomplish something. It also has to be something that sees the light of day vs. staying in the labs. If you don’t set a goal with your business leaders, and stick with it, that time will always get sucked back in to the undertow that is traditional software development.

Even within your own product efforts, when you look at your Agile backlog and how Sprints are prioritized, how would you categorize the story points being spent on maintaining what you have, adding incremental features or modules, or truly transforming how you serve your customers?

One last parting shot before I go: Now think about your own career and how much time you spend transforming yourself. Yes, transformation is also about you. What percentage of time have you carved out and reserved for yourself? Do your personal objectives that you have worked out with your manager have at least one item that carves out a self-development effort that helps you with your own transformation?

About this series: In my very first post I started out by sharing what I call my “elevator speech”. It is the gestalt of what makes me and the organizations that I have gone on to lead tick:

Deliver high quality solutions on time that are innovative, delight customers, win reviews, and disrupt competitors; all while having fun, being ethical and transforming the business.

My first post in this series dissected “deliver high quality solutions… It covered deliver, high quality, and solutions. My second went on about a topic that many development managers and teams hate to talk about and that is delivering “on time… The third in the series talked about solutions “that are innovative…” The forth covered one of my favorite components of the above statement and that is to “delight customers…” This was followed by “that win reviews…”, “disrupt competitors…“, and then by “having fun…“ and “being ethical

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