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by Fran Thomas, Chief Technology Officer, cloudThing
Industry View from
Why a culture of continuous improvement is critical to future-proofing your business and achieving long-term success.
How do you future-proof something when the future has never been more uncertain? Our political landscape changes seemingly daily, globalisation has increased competition to agonising levels and the potential of what technology can achieve continues to accelerate at an unfathomable rate. If we manage to identify, believe in and deploy a strategy, the chances are it will already be outdated to some degree before it’s even been embedded.
It’s easy to understand why so many leaders prefer a wait and see approach – let others make mistakes first and learn from them while focusing on simpler issues to improve the bottom line.
Braver businesses will embark on a grand transformation, maybe even borrowing to invest in the future – a long-running programme full of big ideas, but of little value to the organisation until the project is actually delivered to users in two years’ time.
Both approaches are full of peril. But where there’s a risk, there’s also an opportunity.
What if we set ourselves up to minimise the risk of change, to always expect it, maybe even embrace it? Could we be ready, willing and able to effectively capitalise on opportunities the moment they arrive? Assuming we could, what would this fairytale approach entail?
Perhaps the secret to success here isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing technological solution, but something we already know we all should be doing more of: investing in our cultures.
We’ll need some technology too of course, but culture comes first. In the many years before and during my time at cloudThing I’ve been involved in countless technology, transformation and product development programmes across a wide range of sectors, including blue light, government, education, financial and membership. While I consider the majority of them to have been successful, the degree to which they were varied, and sometimes greatly.
Assuming all other things as equal, the overriding factor which I believe predicted this success was the willingness for the organisation to change, and whether they were set up to do this efficiently, safely and often.
cloudThing’s current recommended formula (we’re all agile, right?) is to create an environment that’s built to expect ongoing, day-by-day and piece-by-piece transformation. Identify a clear vision, of course, but don’t wait for the perfect version of this to begin and absolutely expect it to evolve. What’s more important is establishing forums from a cross-section of your business and empowering them to make real decisions. Give them an agile framework rooted in research before action, require measurable results and make it safe for everyone to fail occasionally, because if we’re going to innovate, we need to be free to experiment.
By doing this, we have a chance at scaling continuous improvement. We’ll foster deeper ownership of decision making and with the people around us having a greater stake in where we’re going, we’ll discover yet more opportunity to improve. As business leaders this should also free up more time for us to spend working on, as opposed to in, our businesses.
If we expect this agility from our people, we also need to expect it from our technology. It, too, needs to be ready for change, for change to be of low impact on the business and for the platforms we choose to be delivering their own innovation. These key factors are some of the core reasons why cloud has been such a success and perhaps why we are seeing more of our customers choose the Microsoft Cloud.
This is especially true for Dynamics 365 and the underlying Power Platform, which is currently enjoying YoY growth of over 40 per cent. If you’re already using or thinking about adopting Office 365 these are logical extensions to rapidly introduce common business applications, an RPA-cable automation platform and a low-code/no-code development environment. These technologies are all part of a fast-growing pattern which lets power users safely self- direct their own technology needs – clearly of benefit to innovation driven organisations.
It’s simple in theory, but such a shift is demanding on many levels. If your organisation doesn’t specialise in delivering transformation programmes and isn’t exposed regularly to successful approaches and technologies, how can you design a way of working that capitalises on everything that’s come before? You certainly can’t buy a solution off the shelf because there’s no pre-built package that can deliver your business. After all, you exist because you’re unique in the market.
The answer is of course to bring in a partner, but today more than ever, make sure this is the right partner for your organisation. Demand that they understand where you want to be culturally. Demand that they upskill your staff so you can start to deliver change as a business-as-usual activity. Demand that they are socially and environmentally responsible, because now more than ever we all need to be. And considering all businesses are digital businesses, demand that they specialise in the technologies which will be used to deliver the transformation.
When your change partner is also the right digital partner, real impact can be delivered extremely rapidly.
The right partner will want to work in this way because they know it’s the most effective recipe for success. The outsourcing of transformation programmes is a fast-fading idea. Co-source, or creating a virtual team of your own people combined with specialists from your partner, is rapidly becoming the future.
When we manage to join these things together a flexibility of people and technology – and focus on capability as much as delivery, we call this approach “build future”. We coined this ideology early in our journey to direct us to focus on delivering quickly, solving our customers’ tangible problems today, but doing so in support of a wider, transformative vision. We’re on a journey too and today this also means embedding the expectation and foundations to support constant change in everything we do.
Isn’t that perhaps the most prepared we can be for the future?
After all, if your business isn’t continually improving, it’s already legacy.
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