While not the magic bullet that solves all your operational problems, moving to the cloud forms the foundation of building a solid technology platform.
Businesses that took the opportunity to remake and future-proof their infrastructure and workforce during the pandemic will continue to pull ahead of the competition. As we move into 2022, it becomes imperative for companies to move to the cloud to accomplish two strategies:
Be agile and flexibly prepared for the unexpected
To Take advantage of emerging AI-enabled digital technologies
These two objectives mean large-scale changes to IT’s operating model. The more technology-savvy people in the company should take the lead in understanding what moving to the cloud would mean for the company. Target specific business areas and look at how having workflows on the cloud benefits operations through increased speed, flexibility, and scale, which are the standard hallmarks of having operations in a cloud environment.
Speed, Flexibility, & Scalability
If you want to deliver digital capabilities anywhere and everywhere, consider how the IronOrbit ecosystem uses the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities. Our teams of engineers and business visionaries have taken the complexity out of migrating your environment to the cloud, so you benefit from faster time to value and reduced costs.
The improvements in productivity and efficiency can generate significant cost savings over time; however, the actual benefit delivery is optimizing IT functions. You’ll be doing things you’ve always done, but you’ll be doing them better, and your operations will be much more resistant to disruptions.
Our new automated self-service portal, IOCentral, delivers a fast and easy way to scale storage, networks, databases, and computer functionality. An intuitive interface allows you to scale business functions more quickly by connecting essential software and microservices. Using AI-enabled technology, IOCentral enables flexibility and comprehensive ecosystem management from one pane of glass.
Speed, flexibility, scalability, and reduced costs indeed represent long-term value, but those in and of themselves do not convey the urgency for moving to the cloud. For that, we need to look further ahead.
The Bigger Business Benefit of Moving to the Cloud
Taking full advantage of your move to the cloud means looking at the new possibilities available to your business because now your business is part of the global cloud ecosystem. The cloud now becomes a catalyst to build new capabilities and value propositions for your customers.
This larger prize focuses on building innovative practices, new sources of revenue, and learning from the unique knowledge flows that will inspire leadership, not IT, to create new digital value propositions for your customers.
Without the cloud, leadership will never be able to enter the competitive arena of 2022 and beyond, let alone have the possibility to innovate new products and services.
The Cloud Delivers All IT Services, Apps, and More.
Be ready to use new digital technologies and stay ahead of change. Call now for a proof-of-concept of how IronOrbit can prepare your business for sustained success.
Future-proofing is the process of preparing for anticipated (and unanticipated) business disruptions. It has always been problematic but is now even more of a challenge.
In this article, we’ll explore the “why” and “how” of future-proofing your business and provide actionable steps to take.
The Future-Proof Challenge of Quickly Evolving Technologies
The rapid acceleration of technology has made future-proofing a business exponentially tricky.
Jimmy Rotella, Sr Solutions Architect at Nvidia, said in a recent episode of “What’s Up AEC?!” that 2020 accelerated a work-from-home movement that was inevitably going to happen in 5 to 10 years.
In an October 2021 Harvard Business Review article, authors Michael Mankins, Eric Garton, and Dan Schwartz write, “technology was already changing the nature of work before Covid-19 took hold. Innovations were redefining the basis of competition in most industries and, consequently, the talent companies need to win over the long term.”
Companies held on by their fingernails for economic survival. The article points out that the businesses that took the lead in the aftermath were the ones who seized the opportunity to remake their organizations and adapt to the new environment.
Disruptors in the Marketplace
Business leaders are worried about what’s going to happen to their companies moving forward. KPMG reports that 74% of CEOs are afraid of some new company disrupting their business model.
Companies look for indicators of possible future disruptions. Things could be going perfectly today, and the next thing you know, someone does it better than you, faster than you, and cheaper. Focus on solving specific problems for your customers. What will the market share be for a product or service in Q4 next year? How about the year after that? Part of this inquiry requires discovering where the weaknesses are in an organization. Spending more time on future-proofing an organization increases your chances of being more proactive instead of putting out fires as they happen.
The Statistics Aren’t on Your Side
Forty thousand companies out of one million will last over ten years. That means that 960,000 go out of business before their first ten years, and only 45 companies out of a million last 100 years.
Why are these figures so grim? What is it that makes preparing a business for future needs such a daunting task? To understand the background of the problem, let’s look at a parenting metaphor.
Parents spend nearly twenty years preparing their children to enter the adult world. In essence, those parents are “future-proofing their children. After all, Mom and Dad don’t know what the world will be like when the children reach adulthood, what kind of people they will encounter, what troubles will come their way, and what dangers they will face. The children will have to be self-sufficient, capable, and adaptable to the inevitable change that will take place during their lifetime.
Your business is no different.
It must be prepped for any eventuality. Every variable is considered.
As we have experienced over the past few years, the future is uncertain. But, with the right preparations, your business can move confidently into the future. The right technologies and strategies can put a forward-leaning company ahead of the competition that hasn’t invested in preparedness.
Let’s explore future-proofing your business, so you can outpace your competition when the next market fluctuation takes them by surprise.
The Connection Between Future-Proofing and Your Company’s Lifecycle
Tendayi Viki, an author, and corporate innovation expert, gave an insightful keynote address at the 2019 Solita Meeting Point. He said all business models have a life cycle, and the problem many companies make is taking the life cycle of a business model and making it the same thing as the life cycle of the company. These cannot be the same thing if you want to future-proof an organization because it chains the two life cycles together. Future-proofing should develop a portfolio of business models (not to be confused with a portfolio of products) that balance risk and return.
McKinsey reports that only 6% of executives are satisfied with their company’s innovation.
Coming up with ideas isn’t so much a problem as shaping those ideas into new value propositions that resonate with customers. Combine those value propositions into sustainably profitable business models. New value propositions require innovation. The objective is to build a portfolio of rising and fall business models to strengthen resiliency.
Reduce uncertainty by experimenting with ideas so that they become sources of revenue.
Innovation Readiness – Embedding Flexibility Into the Future of Your Business
As work and customer transactions continue to grow in a virtual environment, the need to experiment with ideas and business models in the digital realm will grow. Experimentation requires a purposeful engagement between leadership, employees, and technology.
According to the previously mentioned Harvard Business Review article, few business leaders “manage engagement with technology in a coordinated way, so employees become suspicious of it, and the technology underperforms management expectations. That’s a pity because when people and tech work together, everyone benefits.”
The article tells how USAA Insurance uses an integrated approach to developing and deploying AI-enabled tools. The use of next-generation technology frees up people on the claims team to focus on helping customers. “This kind of work is more satisfying for the people and better leverages their capabilities.”
The Future with Your Customers
One aspect of preparedness that makes becoming digital a competitive necessity comes from the customer engagement side.
As Deloitte reports, in nearly every industry across the globe today, customer expectations continue to rise. An explosion of device types and data means that most consumers now expect personalized experiences and increased access to increased amounts of information, when and where they need it. As the number of touchpoints grows, the customer wants “same customer” recognition at every point of interaction. Customer service is more than easy engagement. Today’s customer wants to be necessary each step of the way.
Customers expect products and services tailored to them in personalized, contextual interactions. Customers also wish to read reviews from other customers. The days of siloed IT systems and business functions are behind us, and those who do not realize this will soon be out of business. There is genuine pressure today, much more than a couple of years ago, to digitize operations and become digital companies. There is no time to lose.
Future-Proofing Your Profitability
A recent McKinsey report found that the top 20 percent of companies earn 95 percent of economic profit. Any organization that isn’t seeking new approaches is on borrowed time. By leveraging current technologies and embracing experimentation, organizations can discover new ways of doing things that are not as fragile and vulnerable to unpredictability.
Companies must define data, business, and infrastructure components and design them for reuse to succeed digitally. Reconsider customer offerings in terms of individual components (see the Lego analogy in Part 2 of Why is Digital Transformation So Important to Sustained Success?). One of the powerful benefits of being digital is the repository of reusable business, data, and infrastructure components.
The “How” of Future-Proofing – Operational Backbone and the Digital Platform
The operational backbone supports core business processes and relates to operational excellence. This set of systems is the cost of entry for doing business digitally into the future. In Designed for Digital, Jeanne Ross explains that companies with an adequate operational backbone are 2.5 times as agile and 44% more innovative than companies without an operational backbone. The digital platform, built on a foundation of cloud services, delivers new sources of revenue, leveraging the capabilities of digital technology to enhance customer engagement and solve customer problems. Digitizing operations is a much easier and shorter journey. Most companies experienced a certain amount of it during the pandemic when they had to, under duress, move to remote work environments. Full-on digital transformation is an ongoing process.
Think of it as a journey. New technologies show up on the horizon so frequently that companies have to adapt and adopt almost on the fly. Operating on legacy systems will make this level of agility impossible. Traditional siloed business environments will also prevent progress. It’s far too slow.
The traditional hierarchy of the corporate organizational chart is mechanical by design. Built on antiquated 18th and 19th Century Industrial Revolution ideas, the focus was uniformity, bureaucracy, and control. These are the antithesis of what companies need to focus on today. Now we need creativity, elasticity, and speed.
Protecting Your Data into the Future
From a technology perspective, companies must build ways to capture and store data because even if they don’t know how to make practical use of this gold mine of information now, they will figure it out shortly. An essential aspect of paradigm-shifting towards a future-proof strategy is realizing how important data will become for the long-term success of your business. Think in terms of components and modular applications. These are things that can repurpose for something else. Tap into the power and multiple benefits of accessible scalability-based technologies. Learning to utilize connecting and scaling data will enable companies to develop new products and digital value propositions.
A Future-Proofed IT Environment
In Four Factors to Help You Future-Proof Your IT Environment, Vivek Agarwal writes, “future-proofing means taking steps so you’re able to flex and expand as needed for as-yet-unknown needs and opportunities.” He goes on to explain how the cloud can make companies more agile in meeting customer needs. Moving away from traditional data centers into scalable cloud infrastructure can make enterprises nimbler and more adaptable.
Your core business – the value you deliver to your customers – is the flower that must be protected and nurtured.
With the evolution of technology and fluctuations in the market, the soil that your core business is in may change.
Future-proofing your business means fortifying the core business to thrive in whatever soil conditions it finds itself.
As a technology website, we are writing about technology and how digitization impacts all levels of business and the customer experience. But here’s the thing, technology is only a means to an end. Let’s summarize your next steps in the future-proofing your business.
Take advantage of cloud-based tools and digitizing operations to future-proof your business. They are merely ways to grease the rails of adopting new ways of doing things and liberate the most precious of your resources – people – from tedious manual input tasks.
Build easily scalable systems. Scalability will also impact flexibility so that management can focus on inspiring and revitalizing their teams and organizations.
Shift your team’s focus from reacting to the unexpected to one of possibility thinking. Human creativity and resilience work best in flexible environments that nurture growth, reward their strengths, and help compensate for their weaknesses.
Scaling up is the ability to take on increased workloads in a cost-effective manner and meet the demands of your business without suffering the negative consequences of overreaching.
Scaling up sounds like a fantastic idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to handle more work, delivering more goods and services while leveraging economies of scale for greater profitability?
But the promise of scaling is often like an iceberg. What you see above the water (the work to be done) is nothing compared to the work lurking under the water. These are the challenges faced in scaling a business. Some companies get to a point where it is painful to add another client or bring on more talent. Scaling up seems like piling on more overhead for less reward. Revenue never has a chance to turn into profits.
Here are some barriers many companies may face as they ramp up their operations.
Scaling Up Too Soon
A good question to ask a good business consultant is, Is it too soon to grow the business? Any time before you have all the pieces in place and a strategy to scale is too soon. Is the market is ready to embrace and demand your products or services? Timing is everything. First, to go big into the market is sometimes a good idea, but sometimes not. Companies get eaten alive and never recover.
No Plan to Scale Up
Often the small to mid-size business fails in the efforts to scale for lack of planning. They have an objective and a vague notion of how to get there. Growth-minded companies might partner with that vendor or hire new employees. But all too often, a structured plan is missing. Having a strategy that guides the requirements, stages, and timeline for scaling is foundational for success. As a result, the timing is off, and the company is missing pieces of the puzzle. Frustration and failure soon follow.
No Understanding of the Difference Between Growth and Scaling
For most successful companies, growth came before scaling up. Taking time to grow allows SOPs to be established and perfected. Taking the time to grow enables hiring key people and building a solid reputation. These things are critical for financial backing to scale. Growth is a time to experiment and approve or discard strategic partners and vendors. Growth helps them understand the management and IT resources required for successful scaling. Multiplying processes and output without a substantial increase in resources is the foundation of scalability. Business leaders need to know if the company is prepared to scale up.
Unnecessary or Untimely Product/Service Additions
As soon as a company begins to have a little bit of success in their efforts to scale, they often become overzealous with their efforts to take over the marketplace.
They may move away from their core business too quickly and begin advertising products and services they are not prepared to deliver. Even if they can make a dollar on those tangential goods and services, they are taking resources away from what is central to their current revenue stream and their ability to scale.
Selecting the Wrong Partners & Vendors
Companies across the planet have learned the wrong partners or vendors can put companies at risk. Long supply chains and unproven vendors can have detrimental consequences on the delivery of goods and services to your customers, as well as injure brand reputations.
Avoid vendors and strategic partners who over promise and under deliver. There is no room for freeloading. Everyone has to do their part.
Lack of Internal Communication
Employees need to know the company culture and what is expected. Companies need complete buy-in from their workforce to scale up successfully. There also must be a strategy communicated internally. Along with the nuts and bolts of your well-laid strategy is a minefield of employee concerns, expectations, and emotions that you must address. If employees feel left out of the loop – or worse, insecure in their jobs – they will not be best positioned to support scaling efforts. Internal communication requires more than just a company-wide meeting or a series of internal memos sent out to senior staff. Instead, the business leaders must keep their finger on the pulse of how the staff is acclimating to the proposed and in-progress changes.
The last decision Steve Jobs made was to build Apple University.
He knew that it would be the one legacy he’d leave behind so that his organization would thrive long after he was gone.
Once you’ve been able to leverage some economies of scale, there is often a temptation to cut prices to undercut the competition and gain more market share. “After all,” you think, “We’re still making the same amount on our goods/services.” While it’s tempting to cut your prices and try to push the competition out of business, the money you will lose is better saved and utilized within your scaling efforts.
Technology That Can’t (or Can’t Easily) Scale-Up
Whether you’re working with legacy systems that keep your productivity limited, or you’re working with on-site workstations and servers that are expensive and cumbersome to scale, your technology is limiting your potential. This roadblock used to be a nearly insurmountable one for businesses trying to scale on a budget. However, with advances in cloud-based IT infrastructure and Desktop as a Service, the financial hurdle considerations are lowered due to the cloud’s ability to scale with your business expansion. Companies across the planet have factored cloud computing ability into their scaling strategy and are successfully leveraging the flexibility, mobility, and cost-effective nature of cloud workflow assets.
As an IBM fellow, Jason McGee puts it, migrating applications to the cloud can deliver significant business benefits for companies of all sizes.
Failing to Create Long-Term Demand
Business leaders that fundamentally misunderstand the role of advertising and marketing often pin their hopes of scaling on the stop-and-go stutter-step of marketing efforts. While marketing strategy should always be a part of your scaling endeavor, it is not sufficient on its own to supply continuous, qualified customers. Instead, part of any scaling strategy should be a plan to grow market demand for your products/services. After all, you want them knocking on your door for what you provide; you don’t want to be chasing work constantly with ad campaigns.
Cash Flow and Credit
There is no way around it, scaling requires sufficient cash flow. Many organizations with a fantastic plan to scale launch that endeavor, only to find that their efforts are stymied by lack of on-hand cash or credit. In a recent episode of “What’s Up AEC?!” the Immediate Past Board Chair of ACEC National, Charles Gozdziewski warns about the cash flow aspect of scaling up too quickly. “I’ve seen small firms suddenly become part of a big project. They go from 10 people to 25 people and then they go bankrupt. They just don’t have the financing or financial knowledge to handle it.”
Each stage of your scaling strategy will require more financial backing, and that backing must be available at that stage or things begin to unravel. Setting yourself up for success requires ensuring that you will have the backing you need well in advance of your step to the next level of operational expansion.
Quality Employees Instead of Quantity
Scaling starts and ends with individuals. Whether you are in a service industry or manufacture goods, your employees can make or break your scaling prospects. As much as anything else, scaling requires the right beliefs and behavior. Growth-oriented companies need people who are comfortable with change, who can move fast, and take ownership of tasks. In the rush to scale, companies often hire too quickly and find that they experience internal roadblocks to productivity because of the unqualified staff they’ve hired. Unfortunately, companies that are quickly ramping up delivery of goods and services often don’t have time for extensive employee training or the flexibility for employees to learn “on the job.” A resourceful HR team should be among your first hires to help ensure that your business sources and hires employees that can step in and do the work without handholding.
Ignoring Growth Pains and Fixating on Growth Pains
Whether leadership is determined not to let that “one issue” hold things back or fixate on that “one issue” to the detriment of other things that require attention, it still lands the administration in a difficult spot. On the one hand, small issues at one stage of scaling can become mountains of pain in the next stage of expansion. On the other, a fixation with a specific issue can lead to an unhealthy overemphasis on one aspect of the business, throwing everything out of kilter.
To scale, you must be aware of growing pains and be able to handle them appropriately without devoting all your attention and resources to those problems.
Organizations with micromanagers at the top very often do not do well when it comes to scaling up operations. Delegating responsibility is an essential component of scaling an enterprise. A business leader must know their self well enough to see this tendency in themselves before it becomes an issue that derails the scaling process. Sometimes, it’s necessary to step into a different leadership role and allow someone that has delegation skills to fill that administrative slot. As you scale, so should your management structure. Finding the right role for you to play and bringing in the people you need to bolster your weaknesses is a sign of a good leader.
Despite significant roadblocks to developing capacities to scale up quickly, there are multiple benefits for an organization to prepare itself for the likelihood of scaling up.
The challenges of scaling up are complex because scalability isn’t just about growth. It also has to do with its ability to be flexible, agile, and versatile. The same things that position the business for expansion are the same things that prepare them for unknown shifts in the market and unforeseen events like a worldwide pandemic. Preparedness is all about becoming proactive and being strategic with digital technology.
In a Forbes article from March 1, 2021, Paolo Gallo and Giuseppe Stigliano write, “Because of the dizzying speed of change today, fueled by this umpteenth acceleration, companies can’t count on their strengths alone to innovate. The CEO of a mobility services company reminded us how crucial it is at this stage to build eco-systems, resisting the temptation to reduce them to ego-systems. We have to collaborate with third parties to build systems in which the individual parts function as a single entity, in a more or less continual way to provide high-value-added services to final customers. Companies have to see themselves as fluid platforms, capable together of providing a value proposition that is exponentially bigger than what they could offer alone.”
In one of our previous blogs, we stressed the importance of componentization as a key ingredient to offering new digital value propositions. Taking the time to componentize offerings and build a solid digital foundation for your company will also position it for agility, flexibility, and growth.
The in-depth Deloitte Insights article, Putting Digital at the Heart of Strategy, goes beyond pointing out that digital transformation enables new growth opportunities. It indicates that those companies that don’t digitize in the next five years will be doomed.
Digitizing operations, a key benefit of cloud computing, improves an organization’s ability to meet sudden increases (or decreases) in demand.