If you were to choose your one and only asset before entering the golden but immature land of Digital Business, that would be this very capability.
All the processes at work in your organization are now considered mature. They sometimes existed before you were born. Financial schemes are mastered. HR processes are set. Logistics workflows are optimized. When it comes to those mature matters, to define what you need to implement is no big deal.
Now, with digital, that is another story. Digital has poured lot of immaturity in those well-oiled cogs you had to drive your Sales machinery. Not only don’t you really know what will or won’t sell, but you cannot even really know to who and how! Examples of that uncertainty are numerous. Think about Amazon and their disruptive long-tail business model or Alphabet and the proliferation of initiatives they need to hit the bull’s eye from time to time…
As a direct consequence of that uncertainty, hoping to succeed through project mode is a dead-end. Oh, no doubt project has its virtues. Those corresponding to a more mature, rationalized environment. A project, with a start, an end, clear scope of defined features. Nevertheless…
Virtues sometimes turn to be flaws. In a digital environment, Business Initiatives cannot end or they die of instant irrelevance. Business Initiatives cannot be planned in the long term, once and for all. The market alone dictates its expectations on the run, giving feedbacks while being poked.
Hence the uncertain fate that awaits if you choose project mode to do Business in a digitalizing world. No matter how well it is mastered, the very nature of a project is opposite to digital expectations.
Expectations that have been forged by the new breed of digital pure-players. By offering their services to a massive audience, they made Immediacy, Accessibility and Fast Innovation a norm. That is what a potential customer expects now in a digital context, no less.
What are the characteristics of a Business Initiative?
Contrary to a Project that only aims at its delivery. That means direct relationship to defined and measurable benefits (sales, margin, brand recognition…).
As continuous “Test & Learn” is the only way to fit in a fast-moving market. If you stop, obsolescence will inevitably loom.
As results cannot reasonably be expected on Release 1. A rule of thumb in Business Initiative: forecast twice the budget needed to release first version of your product or service. Because you won’t be able to measure ROI until you completed at least a round of improvements (see chart below). That also means a Business Initiative budget needs to be far more modest than a mature/industrialized project.
As relevant solutions to your problems and requirements can be found outside your internal, under-control but limited system. If you want to be quick, you have to deal with that widened ecosystem as it packs pure innovation.
Last but not least, courage is a sine qua non Courage not to succeed at first try. Courage to learn and improve. Courage to explain the approach and seek support at the higher levels of hierarchy.
The Business Initiative asks for a serious change in your organization. The way you focus on strategic ideas, the way Business and IT work together, the way budget is allowed and ROI is measured. That is a long, tiring path. Actually, it requires faith, as there will be lot of non-believers.
To enable that kind of spirit in your organization requires to convince a wide audience. It is truly a team work where collaboration is preferred over contracts. Where strong sponsorship is required from Direction. Where you have to seal partnership with your providers. It won’t happen overnight. But we found that successful Initiatives can emulate a whole organization: showing that another way is possible, reaching Business results and spreading a motivating empowerment over teams.
Undoubtedly, this is not a path for everybody. But, hey, neither is success.