Robert Mason described it well. He said that when his flying instructor first gave him control of the pedals, the machine started swinging about wildly, and he hadn’t done anything! So true. You’d think that flying can’t be that much of a challenge, but it is, especially helicopters. My instructor gave me a stern talking to: he said that there’s getting airborne, and there’s being excellent at it. He flew fast jets in the Air Force, and would say that at those speeds, navigation is 15 seconds on this heading, 23 seconds on that, 19 seconds and you’re there, so you’d better be good. That was incomprehensible to me while I was simply trying to stop the machine swinging backwards and forwards, sixty degrees either way of where I wanted it.
Time was when just being online was pretty neat
When I registered my domain name over twenty years ago, it was seriously neat to have your own website of any sort. I remember doing some consulting for one of the biggest mail order houses, and they used to print out orders that came in online, and walk them across the yard to the warehouse. In those days we were all just learning and glad to get airborne, even if we ended up with some leaves caught in the undercarriage.
Online business has come a long way in that twenty years, and yet in some ways it’s really just getting started. There’s been lots to work out, lots to try and things to discover, and it has been a long journey as all the different aspects of putting a business online have been devised, stabilised and incorporated into our everyday lives in business. Remember WAP? It was so hard to do anything in those days. Pretty much everyone had to use PayPal back then, and now there are more online payment options than we know what to do with. Then there was the wall of spam that clogged up the pipes. One by one the challenges have been addressed and passed into history.
It’s the end of the beginning
Business models have shifted now, and being online is an assumption for almost all businesses, whether for engaging with customers, managing the supply chain, or bringing the organisation together and strengthening collaboration and efficiencies. Sometimes all of the above. Smaller businesses got there faster; technology entrepreneurs don’t even think about it. Online solutions are now second nature for legions of business decision makers of all stripes, shapes and sizes.
Confidence has taken root. There was a time when the big branded vendors played on customers’ shakey confidence with claims about being the safe decision. Even this has started to recede, and marketing messages trend strongly towards capability, functionality, and completeness.
It’s the end of the beginning. We’re all online now, or getting there, and the game is on. We’re airborne! How do we excel?
It’s now all about striving and thriving at speed
It’s now about finding ways of excelling, of having the very best solutions, the plan and the team to win – striving and thriving in the online world. Where are the angles? Where are the opportunities? Where are the improvements that will keep us competitive and able to achieve? How can we bring together the best solution around the right plan and the team to achieve what we want in this challenging, changing online world?
Constant change and increasing speed are the norms now, and solutions must be fit for that reality, which means that decision makers must opt for choice and flexibility, building in the ability to be truly pragmatic and navigate at speed. The range of options, the choices of technology services is wide and growing all the time. Who knows what possibilities there will be tomorrow, and what changes can be made, what changes will become necessary?
Strategy and policy: How?
Now we’re all airborne it’s about excelling, and we need to make sure that we’re competing with others and events, and we’re not competing with ourselves. If the future is nothing like the past, then the way we do things must be different as well. Strategy is everything.
Focus on the mission – it’s easy to do what you’ve done before, to do what seems obvious: to get airborne, but we know how to fly. Don’t respond to a new challenge with an old solution or an old way of doing things. Now’s the time to go for excellence, to find the right combination of specialists, solutions, and services that focus on achieving your business ambitions.
- Does your business need to go faster, or is it your customers who need to speed up?
- What significant events or changes have got you playing catch-up?
- What significant changes are underway now that enable you to raise your game?
Independence and Freedom – Decision makers need to be able to do what it says on the tin: make decisions. Going at speed, flexibility, control and keeping the initiative are essential. There are lots of services out there to choose from and incorporate into your online service, so you need a strategy that means you can make choices when you want, not have them made for you. Where are you giving up control and compromising your ability to decide?
- What compromises have you had to make with your proposition?
- Are you able to navigate and scale at the speed you’re after?
- What things about your business are outside your control?
The best or the easiest? – Have you decided to choose the best or to take the path of least resistance and go with the things that are easy and familiar? I used to hear people say: “oh, we use [Brand Name] for everything”. These have been the people who’ve complained about not being able to control costs and having to compromise what they want to do because they must fit around what the brand name decides to supply.
- Where are the performance bottlenecks, and have you identified the solutions?
- Has your team got the capacity to deliver what you’re after, or are you having to keep ambitions in check?
- Where do your smartest people add the least value?
We’re online, we’re flying! The challenge now is to be good, very good, and as they say, you can’t make change happen by doing the same things.
|What lies ahead?||Devising strategy||Advisory|
Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2019, Peter Osborn