There are some necessary questions that every technology business needs to ask itself as they look to the future:  How do we stay relevant?  How do we keep from getting left behind when the next technology shift happens?  When the last trend phases out, how do we keep from getting left in the dust by the next trend?  No one wants to leave runners on the bases, so how should we manage the game to our best advantage? How do we stay ahead of the curve?

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review (May 2015), “How We Did It…Cisco’s CEO on Staying Ahead of Technology Shifts,” John Chambers gives us some answers to these all-important questions.

Anticipate

Things change.  They just do.  From the fast food industry to microcomputer manufacturers, if you aren’t anticipating change, you are failing…or you soon will be.  If you aren’t evolving, you are stagnating.  The solution?  Anticipation. “Anticipating those transitions and getting ahead of them has driven our evolution from routers and switches to mobile and video technology to application-centric infrastructure and cloud computing,” says Chambers.

Like a good base runner, if you want to steal home, you’ve jackie-robinson-by-stechico anticipationgot to anticipate not only what’s coming in the next play, but also how you are going to be prepared and agile enough to kick into action when the time is right to make your move.   It’s sort of the name of the game when it comes to technology.  To innovate and be on the cusp of what’s new is how tech companies make a name for themselves.  Either that, or by jumping on the bandwagon with the biggest draw and ride it with a forward looking eye, scouting out the next up-and-coming innovation to which you may need adapt and/or adopt.  Regardless, you must be ready to respond when the changes present themselves.

Capture

Staying relevant isn’t the only challenge companies are facing.  It isn’t enough to anticipate the changes in your field, you’ve got to do something about it.  Taking action means understanding the new thing or idea or concept, capturing its potential, and putting it into action.  Like a bat connecting with a pitch, if it doesn’t hit the ball squarely, it’s going foul–a wasted opportunity.  At least it’s not a swing and a miss, but it still doesn’t get you running.  But if the connection is realized square and true, all of that potential energy explodes into a hit–and hopefully a home run for your company.  How is your company going to know when to swing, though?  Because three strikes for a company these days could result in some dire economic consequences, it’s an important question to ask.

According to Chambers, customers are your best barometer for what’s worth capturing and what’s not.  What they are looking into and investing in is what you should be paying attention to.  Of making those kind of decisions in the tech industry, Chambers says, “Some of these changes required consumers to buy new devices.  All of them required companies to make big investments in technology.  Those that didn’t were, once again, left behind.”  If you are getting the message and hearing your customers talk, you must pay attention and capture what they are saying.

Lead

BABE-RUTH“You have to be bold,” Chambers says.  You have to make a decision and follow through on it.  You get your team to go forward with your plan by laying out the milestones on the way to the ultimate goal.  You have to take some risks.   You have to be willing to commit to the goal and move forward with it. Babe Ruth was famous for saying, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”  Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but without decisive leadership, you are not going to succeed in moving your team forward.

Anticipation that isn’t captured or followed through on is just a daydream at the park, or perhaps a game of predictions in which you watch your competitors take a chance, but you place no bets.  If you don’t get in the game, you can’t win it.  If you stay in the stands watching for too long, you’ll lose the chance to move forward.  Neither can you make true headway on your insights and research if you don’t actively lead your team onto the field.  And while it is important to stay responsive, it may be detrimental to your long term success if you don’t adhere to your plan for a decent amount of time– it could all become a wasted effort if you don’t give it a chance to work.

red sox winChambers says that Cisco “began working on the internet of everything seven years ago.”  It took courage and smart budgeting to stay with the decision, but they didn’t bet the company on it, “And sure enough, eventually the market came around.”  Just like the 2004 Red Sox, it paid to keep at it, right?  Well, very few businesses can afford to wait 86 years to realize success, but if you saw the movie, “Moneyball,” or read the book, “The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” by Michael Lewis, you know that success comes in different ways on different scales, but also depends on courage and smart budgeting. Playing smart, regardless of your possible disadvantages, can often level the playing field.  It takes a strong leader who can identify the best path to take and bring the team along for the ride.

There is no 100% surefire solution to staying on top, but you must try to get in and stay in the game.  When well-intentioned plans go awry, you must be able to rebound and redirect your plans and goals in a new way.  Chambers says, “Disrupting yourself can be really difficult,” but that’s what you have to do.  He also advises that “by the time it’s obvious you need to change, it’s usually too late. Very often you have to be willing to make a big move even before most of your advisers are on board.” No guts, no glory.

ArchiTECH Solutions has got your gameplan if you are looking for BPM technology experts to help your company hit a home run.  We have worked in public sector and private sector with industry giants and small business partners alike.  You can learn more about what we do at www.architechsolutions.com or email us with your inquiry at orangebpm@architechsolutions.com, or call us directly at 703-972-9155.