Broadband capacity, social media and mobility have changed the way we communicate as well as broadening the communities that we interact with. In addition, big data, advanced analytical tools and the cloud have forced us to think differently about how we run our businesses. Nowadays managing a business means trying to align changes in peoples’ behaviours with your business drivers, processes and ever changing, technology.
The new technologies have changed the way your customers want to do business. How does this affect the technology you use? If you adopt new technologies to keep in touch with your customers how does that change your processes? And how do changing processes affect your business drivers and your use of technology?
Balancing and aligning business drivers, processes and technology are not fixed activities. They need to be constantly reviewed and refined as you get to learn the real impact of change on your business. Being efficient, being effective and keeping your eyes open for opportunities and waste are also not once off and discrete activities. They need to be a part of the ethos of organisations. The great balancing act is a dynamic process and for some it is embedded into their organisations’ culture.
Why even bother?
Aligning business drivers with processes requires awareness of your customer, what they value and how to sell to them profitably. When we add technology to that mix we get not only another dimension but a direct challenge to how we think about business drivers and processes themselves.
By aligning digital and your data as a technical platform with your business strategy, business drivers, and sales and marketing activities you will improve the revenue, market share and achieve operational efficiency simultaneously.
The question is what does it take to gain competitive advantage when operating in a market where technology is readily available to everyone? The answer is alignment; as without it you increase your operating cost to just stay in business.
Causes of misalignment
The execution of successful organisations heavily relies on the alignment of the business drivers, technology and processes. However, in the new digitally driven market place where the technology constantly opens new opportunities maintaining this alignment is a challenge. This is especially the case for organisations that were not raised in the digital era. The tension between the fear of uncertainty and pressures to change which comes from more dynamic competitors eventually persuade such organisations to change. However, in their half-hearted attempt they often create misalignment which will result in waste and disappointment.
The well established and successful organisations that have their business drivers fully aligned with processes but are only using technology as a supporting tool are most at risk. While the approach makes sense, unless the business drivers are shaped by the opportunities and threats that are introduced by changes in technology the organisation would find itself losing their market share. There were fantastic companies that lost touch with their market and their customers by not giving much heed to a disrupted market. When the company’s reaction comes it tends to be in the form of a big business transformation which is borne out of a necessity to stay alive e.g. the impact of self-service booking on travel agencies.
There are cases which new technology is brought into a business as a reaction to market trends but process and cultural changes have not been considered e.g. implementing a new digital channel. While such actions may not overtly impact the overall business performance they will generate waste and create lost opportunities.
Standing back = Getting closer
There are a few ways to look at business drivers, processes and technology alignment to benefit your organisation. All show benefits – some quick wins, some slow burners. But in all cases the starting point is standing back from the detail, seeing things for what they are and looking for the current alignments from a high level. Too much detail is overwhelming. Look for what is currently working well. Form a view for yourself. Then get into the detail for specific reasons, be it discovery, analysis or to make a change.
Balanced and aligned organisations are acutely aware of the market changes, customer expectations and potential disrupters. They establish business drivers accordingly with courage and foresight while implementing efficient processes supported by the most appropriate technology. Importantly these organisations cultivate cultures that welcome innovation and change at all levels.
What I should be doing?
Start by considering what “being aligned” looks like for your organisation. Plan for structures that you need to put in place to ensure change happens dynamically. When establishing these structures educate and share the rationale and alignment goals with your teams. Challenge why you do things and why you do not do things. Spend time with your team detailing and challenging your business drivers, processes and technology from a high level in relation to your corporate strategy and goals. Recognise that this is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line, just an enjoyable and challenging journey.
Saiid Ordibehesht is Managing Partner of Pathfinder, a management consultancy company with offices in Ireland and the UK. (www.pathfinder.ie)