Change is the hardest thing

During the last several years I have worn many hats, from investment partner to COO, a Board member and advisor and, of late, start up exec.  From these vantage points, I note a recurring theme:  bad habits die hard.  There is an entrenched fabric to most organizations that supports unquestioned assumptions and the reversion to:  “this is how we do things”.  I recently read an interview in the MIT Sloan Review with Tom Malone, he of organizational effectiveness and design fame.

He observed that most organizations continue to regard Technology as something you use to do the same old things better/faster/cheaper.  Yet, technology changes the things we can do in the first place. This is particularly true today.  When Mark Benioff speaks of Cloud 2 (most companies missed Cloud 1) he is providing an overarching term to describe the arrival of technologies that will profoundly redesign the way the companies work.  As a result, the design of organizations and the roles that make up contemporary organizations will change; and this is going to be very uncomfortable for many.

All of this has been brought home to me as we build our new company, Anaplan.  Our mission is to bring the power of online multidimensional business modeling to the executives and business analysts.  Historically, this powerful technology has been the province of the Benedictine monks of IT and we mere mortals were dependent on them and the business analysts they supported to get any benefit from these powerful but combersome and costly tools.  Most people have little interest in such dependency relationships and the business analyst, the operations directors and most Finance people reverted to Excel to handle the business tasks of modeling, forecasting, planning and analyzing the business and reporting back in some elongated process loop to the decision makers.

How is it that a 30 year old technology, wholly ill-equipped to work at the pace of, and handle the complexity of today’s rapid fire global businesses, remains as the mainstay of most organizations?  Bad habits die hard!!

Benioff is right on Cloud 2.  It will flip the conventional way of doing things upside down.  This collection of what Malone refers to as “coordination technologies” rewires the flow of communications and information in an organization.  As such it will dramatically impact on many people’s jobs.  All too many roles are purposed to have their occupants act out the role of data collector and authenticator.  Unfair to the talents of these people and unnecessary with the technologies available to organizations, today.

Take, for example, the sales forecasting process.  We at Anaplan focused the power of our new online business modeling platform on this process because it was still crude how it worked and, for the most part, dependent on 30 year old technology – the spreadsheet.  Yet it is the lifeblood of the business and a reflection of the complexity and dynamism of a business.  To improve sales forecasting and gain a real understanding of what’s possible and how to best achieve it, companies must move to Malone’s coordination technologies.  We think our online modeling platform will be one of the core linchpins of these technologies, all designed to bring an organization a new “collective intelligence”.  Think of it as crowdsourcing key business decisions.  For today, you can allow far more people to have far more involvement in deciding what to do.  You will end up with better quality decisions and more timely decisions.

Top sales executives, working with the teams in Sales, Marketing, Finance and Services, can change the way their companies are doing things in a profound way.  Leave behind the sales forecast by inquisition process and crowdsource your forecast seeking the optimal mix of opportunities to make your number.  Leverage today’s coordination technologies to design the best way to deploy your team on the field.  The collective intelligence residing in your organization is powerful and anxious to contribute to the key decisions that will define your company.

Welcome to your new day job!!

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