Control. Alt. Refresh. Anyone familiar with computers knows the importance of these three little steps, our go-to move in a computing system crisis. Today, this logic applies to the world around us. The global economy is in reboot mode – and with good reason. To paraphrase Marshall Goldsmith’s iconic words, companies that were leaders in the 20th century can see that “what got them here won’t get them there”.
This is not unexpected. At the turn of the century, McKinsey predicted no more than a third of major corporations would survive the 25 years that followed. In Creative Destruction, Richard N. Foster and Sarah Kaplan concluded that to survive, executives must learn to run companies more like markets: “Corporations have to become masters of creative destruction – built for discontinuity, remade like the market. They must increase the pace of change to levels comparable with the market.”
So how is the market changing today? And how can leaders of 20th-century businesses surf the tide equally well? As I see it, there are three factors at play: new technology, which has leveled the playing field and reduced entry barriers; changing customer expectations as they adapt to the digital age; and competition from new and nimble companies that were born digital and are causing widespread disruption. Keep in mind that 10 out of the top 11 companies – all valued above $10 billion – in Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club are 21st-century sharing economy enterprises.
Of course, this doesn’t imply doomsday for all 20th-century business leaders. And here is where the reboot button comes in. To succeed in this hurricane of change, organizations have to remodel themselves as a 21st-century enterprise – or, a “21CE” as I call it.
Is your company a 21CE?
To find out if your company is a 21CE, let’s visualize a successful 20th-century corporation. More often than not, it would be a large enterprise that overpowers competition by leveraging economies of scale to source the most cost-effective inputs and create quality products or services that offer the best market solution. The emphasis is intentional, as it highlights the common elements that are also the touch points of change.
The 21CE displays five distinct characteristics that are starkly different from its predecessor, the 20th century mega-corporation:
1. Experience-centric vs. solution-centric
The 21CE strives to offer a unified experience. It is acutely aware that customers are no longer satisfied with point solutions – where businesses solve one particular problem but don’t think about the bigger related issues. Customers expect a consistently satisfactory end-to-end experience. Because of that, the 21CE goes beyond mere digitalization, and beyond the realm of physical or virtual – it thinks about the wider unified “experience”.
2. Outcome-based vs. input-based
The 21CE does not operate in or measure performance in input silos. Its success is driven through outcome-based targets. To achieve these it deftly connects the necessary teams across functions or partners with collaborative bridges or platforms. The 21CE liberally applies technology to transform its business model and deliver outcomes that cut across value chains.
3. Agile and lean vs. large and bureaucratic
Unlike its predecessors, a 21CE is optimized in size for fast-paced manoeuvres to ensure a swift response to changing market conditions. On today’s business roller coaster, a non-optimized organization could quickly become a white elephant that cannot keep pace with the market.
4. Service-oriented vs. technology obsessed
Irrespective of the sector it operates in, the 21CE is in the business of ensuring high customer satisfaction within a dynamic market landscape. To do so, these organizations recognize the need to change their operating models and become technology agnostic.
5. Ecosystem-driven vs. cut-throat competition
The 21CE thrives on collaboration rather than the brutal competitive business environment of the past century. The lingua franca of a 21CE is non-homogenous “ecosystems”. These are complex specialized networks where employees, suppliers, providers and consumers collaborate to extend the ecosystem beyond the enterprise with one common motive – to weave together a positive customer experience.
Did your organization make the cut? You don’t have to be a pacesetter 21CE like Amazon or Uber – it’s enough to have an organizational culture where your teams and leaders are willing to remodel themselves and change how you have always done business.
In fact, this concept of transformation goes well beyond the world of business. Take the example of the iconic soccer club Manchester United, which recently made HCL its first “official digital transformation partner”. We’ll be helping them transform their fans’ digital experience, so they can get behind their team from wherever they live in the world.
Think: 75,000 screaming soccer fans, a capacity crowd at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, roaring together to cheer for their home team. Now imagine the thunder of 650 million fans worldwide, raising their voices together, to root for the Red Devils in a community bound by passion… digitally! That is the power of a 21st-century enterprise, and if this 134-year-old soccer club can embrace it, so too can 20th-century businesses.
Author: Anant Gupta is President and Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies and Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s steering committee on the industrial internet of things
Image: Facebook employees work in the design studio at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California