Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Changing Tides of Time and Why Success Doesn’t Last

"Time and tide wait for no man" Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the most stimulating aspects of working in this industry (EDM, ECM, BPM & BPO) for me, is the constant rate of change. Technology matures, market tastes change, markets merge, new technology obliterates old technology and even sales techniques change as does the thinking of your customers. Therefore, what once brought you high levels of revenue may not now work. Just like the tide affecting the coastal landscape, then so does time have an effect upon the business landscape.

So what does that mean to senior executives and why should I find that stimulating? Well for one it is inevitable and there is no point in fighting it, so I make the decision to enjoy the journey and accept that I have to change. Accept that you are on a never ending journey of discovery and learning. Don’t try to hang on to what once worked but now is no longer valid.

There is no such thing as the perfect process or absolute performance. What worked last year may not work as well this year and in some cases may not work at all. Document Boss is in a very fortunate position that we see the vista landscape of our industry across the world and see for ourselves the changing sands of time and the effect it has on companies. Some adapt and prosper some struggle and die. What really matters is how you are performing NOW! Do you know and can you measure it? How are you performing relative to the other players in your marketplace? Has technology or the economy changes moved your prospective clients nearer or further away? You need to become better than the competition at understanding your customer requirements and be in a sector that has life. You need to check regularly that you are not in a sector that has lost touch with the moving desires, latest requirements and thinking of your intended clients. If it has then get out quickly but jump in to a new related sector with knowledge and insight and not leap into a dark hole of hope.

Nothing works all the time in all circumstances. Right strategy is important as is right execution, but so is luck. The role of a business leader is to be alert to these changes to manage the probabilities of change and be quick to capitalise on opportunities as they arise. A good example in our industry of a company that adapted well was Tower Technology. They understood their market, had a very good customer base, excellent domain expertise in the Financial & Insurance market, were close to and understood their customer, had replicable solutions, a motivated team with a good culture and a strong service and maintenance business. Several times during their development they had to adapt and change which they did very successfully and were finally acquired by Vignette.

A fast growing UK Document Outsourced service company, well positioned in the market and positioned for growth came unstuck because they were too heavily dependent on large volume, fairly low profit conversion jobs which meant they needed to "feed the factory"...they needed to move up the food chain into hosting etc. They failed to pull in new business and were very vulnerable if they lost one or two major contracts, which of course they did. Despite achieving some substantial revenue on the back of a couple of big contracts they failed to change or leverage their position and ultimately imploded.

Humility in good times and learning in bad times is a healthy attitude and will help to ensure you don’t become down trodden by not taking downturns personally. There are a whole host of elements of both success and failure that have absolutely nothing to do with you, your efforts, or your character.

"Nurture your mind with great thoughts for you will never go higher than you think"

Benjamin Disraeli

You need to be alert and positive minded to the changes and be open to change. That in itself can be a test, to be able to let go of what once made you successful. Initially it can feel like a step in to the unknown. However, you have the opportunity to test your theories as you gather latest information. If you would like assistance to “Keep your finger on the pulse of this industry” see Boss News http://tinyurl.com/cu523j

It’s not all a science there is also some art otherwise successful businesses would be run by boffins in white coats with mathematical formulae. However the scientific methodology of test, observe and replicate will put the odds firmly in your favour. Learning from the recent mistakes of others and testing provides huge benefits in your journey of success.

Testing on a small scale and keeping your eyes and ears open will give you more than a fair chance for the health and growth of you and your company. If you can do that and accelerate your long term equity value, then you are a true and valuable business leader. Nothing stays the same over time. Piece by piece the sands move and so should you but with thought, information and design.