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Three habits of highly successful businesses such as Google and Amazon

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The consequences of failing to respond to changes in business are well-documented. Blockbuster did not anticipate the massive shifts in consumer behaviour enabled by technology and collapsed. Kodak ignored the rise of digital photography and went from a Kodak moment to a dead moment in less than a decade. Staying ahead of the curve and constantly thinking about the future is critical not just for survival but for growth. 

Last year, I carried out an extensive analysis of successful businesses such as Amazon, Google, LinkedIn and Etsy. I wanted to find out the key success factors for each of these businesses. It became obvious pretty quickly. Whilst most of the players were focusing on “doing things right” through agile, lean and similar approaches, these successful players focused on “doing the right things” by focusing on customer experience and building new value for stakeholders. The combination of doing things right and doing the right things is what made these companies so successful.

I went on to consider the organisational culture of these companies. Through this I identified three insights which could help any organisation in achieving the vision of “doing things right and doing the right things”: 

(1) Experimentation culture

They are not afraid of failure. From anecdotal evidences, Amazon and Google have a success rate of less than ten per cent in innovations. But what truly makes these firms is a result of both the 90 per cent and the ten per cent. To put it simply, the firms have to build and pilot 100 ideas to find the top ten successful ideas. The company learns from its mistakes – which is possible only through quick change. These companies rollout more than 100 changes in a day. The only constant is change. 

(2) Automation with NO OPS (No operations) mindset

Last year I conducted a study of top digital leaders. According to them, the most important initiative and the most often failed initiative is automation. This brings up the question, if something is so important then why is it failing? Essentially, this is where the second idea comes in. 

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Successful organisations look at automation with a NO OPS mindset. This means the company can assume there is not going to be an operations team to manage and maintain the product. Now think of the kind of automation that will be needed to enable that. Google’s self driving car is a good example of automation with a NO OPS mindset. Imagine the kind of sensors the company built, the kind of GPS and navigation systems designed and kind of movements it has to track so that the car keeps on driving across the tunnel, in the traffic and on the restricted area of the road – with no-one in the driving seat.

(3) Measure the right things

Align the key performance indicators and measure them alongside all of the key factors which impact on them. Such factors could be business outcomes such as revenues, delivery metrics such as lead time, brand indices such as equity health and customer impact such as NPS. It is important that we measure micro moments, by which I mean small key metrics to help in analysing change rather than merely the one big thing which is your KPI. 

Some organisations will look at macro metrics and try to find insights on those. This is impossible. Actionable insights will come only when we start to look at micro moments. There is no point in purely measuring revenue as a business outcome, you need to understand what is driving this – for instance social media interaction, ecommerce click through rates and conversation on the entire journey.

These are the three habits which will help organisations to achieve their vision of “doing things right and doing the right things”. Businesses need to drive the future. Creativity and technology have to work hand in hand, and often that means that the technological idea needs to be thought through first or at least along with the creative ideas, as technology can be the vehicle that drives creativity as well. We creatively design a product and then build it the same way. 

I believe the world will be a completely different place to live when technology will equally drive creativity. Google’s rollout of an Android OS is a good example of technology driving creativity. Rolling out an operating system is a technical innovation. However, it enabled creativity in a number of ways. Who could have imagined the kind of apps which developers are building using those APIs such as an app to monitor heart beat or an app to smell what is in your surroundings?

There is always someone waiting to disrupt you. You have a choice. You can either sit back and let it happen or be proactive and create change in your favour. Having an experimentation culture, automation with a NO OPS mindset and measuring the right things will help your business succeed. 

Pinak Vedalankar is director of technology at SapientNitro.

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