Partnerships – Mission Critical

Lewis MacDonald / 3 months / No Comments

Today, digital technologies and applications are constantly disrupting, reinventing and reshaping industry landscapes and redefining business models. The only constant that we can count on is change. Change is inevitable and its happening more rapidly, in more areas, impacting on more people and businesses in a constantly upward and unending curve.

So, it’ll be no surprise to learn that companies have to prioritise digital when it comes to strategic planning. But for leaders, the key challenge is building a strategy that truly unlocks their full digital potential and is relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape with no absolutes or defined playbooks that guarantee success.

To succeed in this landscape; more enlightened leaders are looking to forge successful long term digital-future partnering as well as building capabilities in-house – and all with an agile digital-centric approach. In our modern digital world we no longer work in silos. As with open source software, transparency and embracing collaboration often proves to be the most effective form of identifying and executing a digital strategy.

But in addition to simple collaboration; how can we harness the powerful human motivational factors associated with teams working together for the greater good?  This powerful spirit of collaboration has been the primary driving force behind the open source software movement. Should today’s software development and digital innovation remain locked in with internal teams as the sole guardians?  Or does an approach which reaps the benefits of working with challenging and expert partners incubate and encourage higher levels of creativity with faster and more market-focused delivery.

Now more than ever, it is mission-critical to be in a state of constant reinvention.  We must not be unafraid of the unknown, and we should embrace constantly challenging existing digital ecosystems and environments.
As an indication of this inevitable change, Mckinsey Global Institute estimate that between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and will need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world.  Anywhere between 75 million to 375 million of these may need to change career entirely and learn a whole new set of skills.

Let’s pause for a minute and just digest this fact, in less than a decade, the largest disruption since the Industrial revolution will impact across all our lives.  New ways of work or not working will become all pervasive reaching across all areas of society, as the skills of the practical – the plumber is elevated while machine learning drives  widespread displacement across high business cost blue collar areas- accountancy, law, government administration etc.

In this febrile environment of digital change with no certainty on outcome, allocating capital and resource to the traditional internal project model (with what’s essentially experimental short-term discovery and focus) comes with increased risk.  What’s more, addressing core areas of specialist development can often be a long and arduous internal learning process. However, underpinning all of this is the fact that to do nothing is not an option. The unknown must be embraced.

The key task for leaders is achieving this push for change while exercising some governance around the risks of cost and outcome.  A successful digital deal-maker will recognise that – just like open source software development – risk can be mitigated by blending and challenging existing internal teams with culturally attuned external experts.

Let me be clear – this is not to advocate the traditional direct route for guidance to the larger, perceived safer established external top five consultancies.

Indeed, if we look at the last decade of  digital innovation these agencies are often intrinsically aligned with preservation of the status quo.  Like little Peter, the Dutch boy at the dyke, they often look to plug the hole with a finger, rather than blowing a breach in the wall to let the water safely flow away!

A more farsighted and successful approach is to fully integrate external support.  Often this support comes from specialist boutique agencies on a strong, transparent and long-term partnership basis.This external support and expertise essentially becomes part of the internal workforce. The consultants are fully integrated, but with one critical difference – they have the freedom to work to an open agenda; challenging the partner to push for a fully validated viable market solution with no external bias or internal agenda.

As with product exploration and the accepted wisdom of delivering a minimum viable product (mvp), this approach can be managed as a minimum viable team (mvt).  The external team are lean, agile and focused on the urgency and immediacy of change.

Crucially, this dynamic also often stimulates a more energised cultural approach to problems internally.  The external team often bring fresh perspectives, a release of creativity and interaction between the organisations own team members who acknowledge the internal consultants or experts present no threat; only a desire and drive to resolve any immediate issues and move the business forward.

For many this form of integrated external MVT is unfamiliar territory.  These businesses typically continue to operate in an insular way, developing and producing everything in-house.  Often without external expertise and perspective, innovation is stifled and an inevitable downward loss of staff, slippage on projects and loss of competitive edge begins to emerge.

Unfortunately for these companies, it’s an approach that benefits their more nimble competitors.  Ultimately, companies that embrace external specialist integrated support find themselves on a sure footing to accelerate and win.  

Searching for a perfect specialist partner with so many potential candidates needs a structured approach.  True integrated partnership teams need not be a concern if you observe the following criteria as the minimum expectations from your digital partner:

  1. Delivers on identified enhanced skills and expertise
  2. A broad spectrum of available talent and cultural fit from product mgt, project mgt, software development, technical architects and commercially-attuned resources
  3. Ability to provide ongoing support and commitment, critical as the project resource demand moves from concept to MVP to full-scale production
  4. Desire to embrace accountability and ownership driving meaningful impact with transparent auditable outcomes
  5. A robust commercial agreement defining responsibility, and governance while flexible enough to support and manage multiple agile workflows

At Computer Rock, we understand and empathise with the challenges companies face when considering collaboration. We are singularly focused on supporting clients with the specialist skills they require to drive momentum and build relevant digital market propositions.  These propositions give our clients a platform on which to be more digitally proficient. This in turn enables them to focus on the core of their business; safe in the knowledge that the company’s digital priorities are being constantly challenged and market attuned.Integration of external and internal teams encourages tackling pain points from different perspectives with the same goal in mind – resolving problems at pace.

Agencies with digital experience and expertise offer a valuable resource that’s often overlooked. It can be summarised as exceptional client- and market-focused unbiased expertise, providing careful consultation ahead of investment, analysing the key pillars of execution and delivering a systematic approach which de-risks any digital ambition’s.

Proactive companies that think in terms of digital ecosystems and long-term collaboration are proven to scale rapidly – and that’s a huge competitive advantage.

In this environment where procrastination is simply not an option, the key question every decision maker should be deliberating on is which specialist digital agency to align and integrate with, and not when.  Selection of the right specialist agency reduces digital investment risk, fosters a culture of change and the partner is emotionally tethered to delivery of a shared long term vision.