Monday, May 02, 2011

Shifting to a Market, Program, and Platform Organization

As technologists, product developers, and marketers, we all love to work on the brand new idea. It might be a simple enhancement or a whole new application to a new audience, we are all motivated by creating something new and the prospect of success.

I spent the first half of my career working in startups where the thrill of building something new was easily attainable. Or was it? The truth is, startups have the first year or two at most to get technology platform, operations, and product development optimized. After that they end up with their own legacy issues and unlike enterprises, probably don't have the same access to capital to buy a legacy transformation. By way of example, the startup I worked on in 1996 had a DEC Tru64 C++ platform that was state of the art at the time but by 1999 we were already prioritizing efforts to move this to Sun/java.

Now, as CIO at a larger corporation I can tell you that long term agility only comes through the ongoing investment in people, process, and technology. This may come off as cliche, but the key word here is "ongoing". What are the main issues?

Project, and project based financials which force the ramp up and ramp down of resources against a desired business outcome.

Product development, when it implies that one is investing in technologies, partnerships, and development tied to a single product.

What does it mean when we transform from "projects" to "programs" and from "product development" to both "market" and "platform" development? There are specific behavioral differences that are key to Market, Program, and Platform agility implied:

  • Market agility implies that the organization has cleanly identifies a customer segment with specific needs that it can can offer, monetize, and grow. A product, is a means to that end but not the only option for serving a market. Also, describing the market to the organization is far more specific, but also gives room for debating options and innovating.
  • Programs allow you to shift priorities and resources, rather than ramping up or down funding or resources. Programs imply continuous improvement, feedback, and prioritization.
  • Platforms signify reuse of functionality and technology, mechanisms for interfacing with partners and suppliers, and operations that scale based on performance needs.

My next posts will elaborate on these concepts and on shifting to this model.

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