How to parallel innovation and business as usual
On Episode 36 of the Growth Swarm podcast, John Siefert, Bob Evans, Tony Uphoff and Scott Vaughan discuss the best ways for leaders to balance the twin demands of day-to-day business during uncertain economic times with the pursuit of innovation that fuels growth in… will advance in the future. For an effective “parallel process” it all boils down to framework, communication, consistency and leadership.
01:01 — John introduces today’s topic, which is about how to effectively manage your business-as-usual operations while pursuing innovation projects such as pilot programs, new market entries or globalization projects. Today’s discussion will focus on making these projects happen within the organization, particularly as practitioners. Theoretical solutions might look great on paper, but in reality it’s not that simple.
02:12 — Bob cites a sports example that games are often won or lost in the transition between offense and defense. A team that can efficiently manage the constant interplay between offense and defense is more agile and has a better chance of winning. Tech companies that position themselves to help their customers “do more with less” will “get the future they deserve.” Bob cites a recent analysis by Scott on why the idea of doing more with less should be abandoned by companies trying to navigate uncertain economic times.
04:07 — John says these are strong words but they are based on the reality of how the business works. So what are the next steps? How do leaders build frameworks for the innovation process without stifling the existing part of your organization?
05:28 — “You’re not going to save your way to greatness,” says Tony. “It’s a pretty nonsensical way of looking at business.” The key question: Do you have a framework, system, or mental model for balanced resource allocation? You may have some existing businesses or “cash cows” keeping the lights on, but you need to start thinking about investing in new areas for future growth, along with measurable milestones against those investments. You also need to consider risk mitigation and have measurable milestones against it. It takes time and thought to create a process, framework and system. With a framework and system, you have the things under your control within your reach. You may not be able to control the world economy, but you can control certain variables in front of you.
09:21 — Cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a business enabler, says John, and a concern that feeds into managing parallel processes as it affects both existing and new businesses, which are increasingly deploying SaaS applications in both single-cloud and multi-cloud -Use environments. In this largely hybrid work environment, where employees use different devices to access information across multiple clouds and hundreds of applications, establishing a cybersecurity strategy is essential. This has to be done while running the whole business and managing all the different priorities. The approach to cybersecurity frameworks depends on the size of the organization. Larger organizations may find it easier to manage multiple priorities, while medium-sized or smaller organizations struggle with the complexity of managing multiple priorities.
11:20 — Scott says it comes down to consistency and leadership. Whiplash will definitely happen, and you’ll probably feel it more at times in a smaller company than in a larger one. However, whiplash can also be more difficult in a larger company, but it can take a while to get to the end of the tail before it snaps. For that reason, this is a great time to clean up your systems or processes as you need that level of detail, insight, scrutiny and data to put it all together. Then it becomes easier to communicate with your team, your partners and the entire organization about what bets you are taking, where you need to streamline and what you need to do to become more efficient (e.g. through automation). Scott loves the term “parallel processing” because it’s the way companies, big and small, should run, in good times and bad.
14:20 — John points out a pitfall with parallel processing, which is “realizing that you can’t sacrifice progress for perfection.”
15:48 — Tony agrees that at times like this there is sometimes a tendency for executives to “over-sharpen the knife” and “have another meeting on that” where he draws on frameworks as they help you understand the size of the business, the risk, measure your performance against that risk and then have a clear risk mitigation plan.
18:16 — Bob cites a point Scott made in his analysis, namely talent within organizations, particularly young talent. If they feel an organization is in a “three-year lockdown,” they’ll “jump out so quickly.” Businesses need to weigh all their pros and cons and put these young people where they can have the greatest impact on the business, the talent and their future together. “Cheer up,” according to Bob, means not believing all conventional wisdom and not trying to take a 1985 playbook and apply it here because it doesn’t add up. We are in a completely different time.
19:04 — Scott says even comparing 2008 or 2009 to today’s scenario is wrong because things have changed significantly. We run our business differently, customer expectations have changed and our high potential employees have different needs. We can’t rely on the old playbook. While there are some fundamentals and core levers that apply to any business, it’s important to note that the current situation is volatile and uneven. Sectors like travel, hospitality, and even some retail and tech industries are beating expectations while other industries languish. Blanket statements do not help. Today you need a systematic approach, communication and data. And there are so many more tools in acceleration economics to do this. So we use them.
Which companies are the top cybersecurity vendors? Click here to view the Acceleration Economy’s top 10 cybersecurity shortlist, as selected by our expert team of practitioner analysts.
20:16 — Bob mentions two “legacy companies,” Oracle and SAP, because they are two of today’s fastest growing companies in the Cloud Wars Top 10. Three years ago, Oracle didn’t think it could win in the cloud infrastructure business, but the company went after it and is now the leader. Meanwhile, SAP had some revenue at the top of the company at the start of the pandemic and could not provide revenue guidance going forward, as well as a large number of on-premises customers. Some people may have said, “You need to protect them, don’t take that cloud risk.” But they didn’t and now they have a booming cloud business. All of this would not have happened if they had taken a bird’s eye view of things and had the silly notion of just doing one thing at a time until the crisis is over.
22:24 — John says there’s another term he’s heard a lot lately that particularly ties in with Bob’s comments about Oracle and SAP: “We need to get back to basics.” He finds the term equally useless. “What Oracle and SAP did in that environment was redefine what the fundamentals actually meant to the business, reprioritize, and then create a growth opportunity in front of them,” he says. “So don’t go back to basics. It is our responsibility as leaders, as practitioners, to redefine what those fundamentals mean in the acceleration economy.”
[This episode of Growth Swarm is brought to you by Lookout, which is an Acceleration Economy Top 10 Cybersecurity company. Read more about Lookout here.]
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