No two business evolutions will look alike, but based on his two decades of business leadership, Results.com chief executive Ben Ridler explains how to plan for the biggest change many companies are now undergoing: the move from face-to-face, paper-based and bricks-and-mortar operations to cloud computing, virtual meetings and international clients.
Those who plan the flight don’t fight the plan
Include as many people as you can in the planning process and the decision to move online.
Any change in company strategy needs to be explained over and over again. You might get it; that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Based on my experience, a few months into the transition, when you think everyone has finally grasped the plan, someone will ask, ‘so, why are we doing this, anyway?’ and you'll realise they haven’t come close to understanding what’s going on and why.
Be steadfast and resolute
You need a strong stomach to make a transition this big. You'll be faced with huge challenges you didn’t see coming. Stay focused on the plan. Any change requires courageous leadership, a lot of determination and the right people.
It will take longer, and the journey will be rougher, than expected
Be prepared to ride it out, surround yourself with those who support the vision, and remain focused on where you’re going. Whether things are awful or great, bear in mind that ‘this too shall pass’.
Business fundamentals don’t change
All businesses must do three things:
· Generate a lead
· Convert a lead
· Deliver a product or service
How do you do these in the cloud, and what does it mean for your target market? What changes for your delivery or conversion process?
The online world works on data and metrics that are available instantly. The pace is dramatically faster than the offline world, so you need to rethink your decision-making processes, flatten your management structure and let people try things. Try and get to the important data, and avoid getting buried in the rest. Become a voracious learner, and surround yourself with people who are already there.
Remove the roadblocks
A change this big alters a lot of the fundamentals, and each of your people will, broadly speaking, fall into one of three camps:
· Resisters – don’t agree and will resist the change
· Observers – will wait and see what happens
· Enthusiasts – active supporters who get it and want to be part of it
The first group must be dealt with quickly. You won’t convince them, so the faster they move out the better; it lets them find something that suits them.
The infrastructure, tools and processes that worked offline won’t serve you in the cloud. You need new tools, and, probably, new people. There is a world of difference between an IT system that works for a consulting firm and what is needed for a competitive, agile SaaS-based company delivering virtually. The tools are designed for the tech-savvy people, so training and education is needed.
The biggest barrier to success will be the way you think about your product, the market and the opportunities. Results.com just signed a new client in Russia to use our software and work with a consultant in New Zealand. The world is now divided into time zones and languages, not countries and cities. We need to repackage, rethink and relearn everything we thought we knew. What was once a paid-for product is now something we give away as a free workshop. People who were competitors are now resellers.
You’re going to make it when you start hiring the new folk who don’t have the past to let go of. They will support your enthusiasts and influence your fence-sitters. At Results.com, our US team knows only the new reality of virtual clients and SaaS, making them a great influence on those who have been with us longer. They are confused by anyone who doesn’t get it, because to them the ‘new’ way is obviously superior. As our New Zealand business evolves, those with a background in online or tech are making the transition the fastest.
If you’re thinking it all sounds too hard, reflect on
this thought from Gary Hamel: "Somewhere, someone is making a bullet with
your company’s name on it. Your only option is to shoot first."
If you don’t, and your opposition (which you might not even know you have) does, you’re in for a lot of pain.
Ben Ridler is chief executive of Results.com, a company specialising in business execution software