1. Acquisition is not always the answerIt can be tempting for large organisations with substantial budgets to see acquiring smaller competitors as the quick and easy option: you remove them from the marketplace - protecting your market share - and get your hands on whatever new technology is making them a threat to you.
However, doing so won’t necessarily win back customers’ trust - if anything, it could erode it even further, cementing your perception as a big bad corporate. On a more practical level, anyone who has been through an acquisition knows how tricky it can be to merge processes, cultures, and technologies. It is just as essential to have the capabilities and capacity internally as it is to partner or buy.
The risks are many, and one stands out: culture.
2. Revolutions start with peopleI believe that having a tech strategy at the core is critical; however, it has to start with your people. Leaders must start by developing their own agile business mindset, before building that culture throughout your organisation. This means arranging yourselves around the human problem or opportunity. You can do this by bringing in “T” shaped people with the ability to collaborate on the horizontal, who bring their expertise and knowledge at the right point of engineering the solution.
It sounds strange, but this means colleagues from legal, for example, joining product innovation or privacy by design, right at the beginning. Aligning function to the problem shared has an amazingly positive impact on culture, and it is even stronger if there is a clear strategy on the meaning and a shared vision for why.
3. Data as the soil to growThe next step in today’s world has to be data: what data points and capability do you need in order to solve your customers’ problems or create the opportunity? We often get our heads down in what data we have and can harvest through partnerships. Open data, Intelligent Empowerment (IE), the augmentation of people and tech bring vast new data sources.
When data legislation is applied, useful services such as IoT and human engagement through new channels bring a whole world of connected data points. Tech and data engineers working with the creative teams are now standing up new categories. The fusion of travel and home are examples where the intersection becomes obvious.
4. Tech as the enablerFor many business leaders, technology is a critical obstacle rather than the enabler that it should be. Legacy technology is the polar opposite of agile; it holds you back and stops you from innovating, no matter how much your people may want to.
Businesses need to apply the principles of APIs and tech engineering internally to rescue data from silos, functions, and products in order to create new data. This means the organisation has a new data asset - we see this through “partner or build platform” models where the new tech enables the organisation to innovate rapidly.
Leaders must find a way to leave behind a legacy, and digitise their tech estate to enable the new mindset and culture that they have developed. This will mean major investment - and collaboration.
5. Collaboration is everythingIt is at this point that partnerships and collaboration tip the whole thing upside down. No longer are many relationships vendor-based or procurement driven, although “open everything’ is on the table. It is about the mutual value these new friends create in a circular model. We see this in the financial services industry, for example, where competitors are getting together to solve risk and fraud through partnerships.
It is this dual approach to solving the tech debt, legacy, and outdated ways of working that will lead to engineering digital and truly revolutionising your business.
My colleagues will be speaking about this topic in more detail at ThoughtWorks Live in London on 30th April.