What’s unusual about ‘business as usual’?

In the face of today’s increasingly competitive, unpredictable and demanding globalised business environments, the challenge facing the leadership at every level in today’s established organisations lie in building enterprise agility and adaptability without compromising the integrity, risk profile and otherwise good governance of the overall organisation.  

‘Business as usual’ is no longer the norm. ‘Business is unusual’ should be the new catch-cry when facing the combined influences of new and emerging technologies combined with globalisation.

The viability of established local organisations whose business strategies are rusted onto legacy structures, outmoded managerial practices and governance models may well be threatened in the face of disruptive change- especially if the changes are technology-led.  

In fact, if your organisation has the ability to adapt to rapidly changing external changes in a controlled manner, with known cost and risk – it may just be your organisation’s  key differentiator, if not underpinning its viability in the long term.

All good and well in theory. The practice is invariably different, especially when it comes to the uptake, implementation and governance of new enterprise technologies.

Rage against the machine

Mature, incumbent organisations have the tendency to maintain their own momentum in predictable environments. As organisations grow and mature, the progressive implementation of enterprise-wide governance processes are seen as important in maintaining business process excellence. However, in the face of an increasingly competitive, changeable and demanding environment, striking the right balance between the need for effective corporate governance and agility is no simple exercise. Resistance to change is often associated with the need for maintaining compliance to prevailing standards, be they required under a contract with a customer, legislation, international or industry mandated.

Established organisations often still struggle to make the transformation from siloed, inflexible, inertial organisations to becoming innovative, agile and responsive, and the resistance to change goes far deeper than ‘red tape’.

Other than for new start-ups, which by definition are unencumbered with any legacy technologies, processes  or governance frameworks, attempts at enterprise-wide change often have to struggle against the headwinds of resistance to doing things differently.  These headwinds to organisational change originate from multiple sources such as:

  • Lack of time and resources in designing and implementing the change itself;
  • Poorly defined and articulated enterprise business strategies;
  • Inflexible business processes that depend on complex, large and legacy enterprise systems
  • Vested interests;
  • High profitability;
  • Internal factions;
  • Ill defined executive and managerial accountabilities;
  • Poor quality leadership (as opposed to management)
  • Short terms management incentives not explicitly associated with the change; or
  • Hostile and non-collaborative working environments

Technology saves the day?

Faced with the arrival of a new digital technology innovation on the market, the leadership cadre of organisations are faced with coming to terms with the optimal approach in response to this force for change or innovation.  To fully realise the potential value (as well as identify and mitigate the risks) of any new technologies requires a close, peer collaboration between IT and all layers of the organisation.  Shifting your IT department from being a cost centre delivering  from delivering a raft of IT services to becoming an Innovation broker is the key.

This focus and impetus for change becomes more acute if a competitor is seen to be seizing the opportunities offered by these new technologies.  Even though the technology may be compelling, the acid test is how, if at all, your organisation can collectively exploit this innovation to their advantage with known cost, value and risk.

This tests the organisation’s intrinsic ability to truly deliver when it comes to making the necessary changes.

The reality is that innovation-fuelled change is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it opens up a world of possibilities for perceptive, agile, adaptive and fast moving organisations in capitalising on new markets, opportunities and revenues. On the other hand, these changes can disrupt or destroy entire industries as well as ill‐prepared incumbent organisations.

To answer the question whether technology will save the day lies not in technology per se, but in how deeply engaged and integrated the IT leadership is with the rest of the organisation.

The recent State of the CIO 2014 report shows some interesting trends. Only 17% of respondents regarded the IT group as a cost centre.

The question is:  How would you rate your organisation’s ability to successfully manage the transition from being process-bound and inertial to adaptive in our increasingly volatile environment? If your organisation is one of the 17%, you may wish to start asking some serious questions, or chances are that your competitors are already doing so of your organisation.