Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back Inside the Wire...Strategic Trends Observed

FOBS has more or less returned to base after gathering intelligence and observing business operations.

My wife called me the other day and asked me what emerging business trends I knew of, or that I felt would be important to watch for...some are obvious, some are emerging and clouded in the fog of business warfare, some are guesses...

Trend 1: Collaboration. This social and business practice is the most productive and threatening activity to a number of social and business norms and value systems. From production, compensation, valuation, to marketing, innovation, and governance, collaboration is an emerging system of values, rules, expectations, pitfalls, advantages, etc. The Gordian knot of collaboration is how to work together with others while challenging and changing the value systems that are threatened by collaboration.

Trend 2: Global Resources. An old trend, but with new emphasis and character, is global resources. This is not outsourcing (e.g. call center in Mumbai for Florida marketing company). This is what is know in military parlance as strategic depth; it is also an example of collaboration. By globally resourcing your product, service, or capability, you provide flexibility, innovation, diversity, and alacrity to your corporation or entity. By collaborating with global resources, you can draw upon a variety of knowledge, skills, abilities, and ideas, 24/7/ compress the response time of your activity or service toward/for others. By globally positioning your company or entity, you are able to hive to your dilemma and come up with creative solutions - with ideas left over for the next contingency.

Trend 3: Geographic Redundancy. This is similar to, but distinct from, global resourcing. Geographic redundancy is the deliberative act of planning for failure by dispersing your resources, cloning those resources again, and drafting and practicing a continuity plan. This is what is known in government circles as continuity of government, or in business and other entities as continuity of operations. Even if a business or entity backs up a capability at a single location, that single location is vulnerable. Moreover, the contingency plans for executing a backup plan are more often than not practiced, or even written up in the first place. Thus, most businesses or entities have only one location to house their capabilities, do not clone this capability, do not geographically disperse this capability, and do not have any standard operating procedures on how to execute continuity of operations. This will change as there is a confluence of the need to disperse capabilities and the need to access services and products from anywhere, at any time, with a variety of devices or modalities.

Trend 4: Decentralization. Again, a by-product of collaboration, but a distinct concept, is decentralization. Decentralization for business is the act of dispersing responsibility, accountability, and freedom of action. Again, not a new idea or concept, but the emergence of decentralization in successful business models means that the organization does not become paralyzed by an executive's ego; incapacitated by top-down edicts far removed from the sales and accounts-receivable reality of the marketplace; and promotes the shared responsibility, accountability, and rewarding of those within that node of the business or entity. Think Cisco or any special operations unit - regardless of rank, they are responsible for a successful outcome far removed from the interaction/edicts from higher management/headquarters.

Trend 5: Niche vs. Ecosystem. The previous four trends are necessary or sufficient conditions for trend five, based upon the acceptance/declination of those trends. A business or entity at the end of the day must decide whether to tackle a piece of the need, or address the entire system in which the need is addressed. Thus, either you are going to provide a specific, niche, solution to part of the problem, or you are going to address the entirety of the problem - niche vs. ecosystem. Think iPhone apps vs. Amazon, or sniper system vs. specialized unit. By deciding on whether you support or reject the following four trends, you will most likely support a niche or ecosystem approach to a problem or need. This is the emerging, bifurcating, trend in business - solve it all or solve a specific portion.

What do you think?