Today’s technology landscape is moving faster than before.
It’s hard to stand out from your competitors when so many things are stacked against you. Time is everyone’s enemy; speed to market is listed as the number one factor in determining a small company’s success… higher than unique IP, qualified partners or even overall funding. Being first is not always a measure of long-term success, but being late makes the chance of success astronomically smaller. In a recent survey of privately funded companies, Harvard Business Review found that company funding was increasingly being used to play catch up to faster-moving competitors rather than on more traditional investments. In the last five years a greater number of acquisitions have been because of the strategic need to buy an aspect of the business that competitors already possess, using absorption as a means to get back in the race. Under any objective measure, how time is spent has become one of the most critical factors of building and running a successful company.
Teams that communicate save time. Companies that save time win.
At the same time, creating urgency remains one of the most elusive cultural attributes that companies struggle with. Years of complacency in technology growth and high costs of implementation have lulled larger companies into a false sense of security. In the past, a large corporation could sleep comfortably at night knowing that small companies couldn’t innovate against costly hardware platforms, fund expensive go-to-market channels, or afford the number of expensive resources to make real progress. But the last ten years have changed this in a big way; development environments are far cheaper, global staffing has become more feasible and effective, and the path to market has never been as open to companies of all sizes as it is today.
- There was a time less than fifteen years ago when publishing to a mobile carrier meant paying more than $100,000 in testing costs, submission fees and marketing. Today’s app ecosystem is nearly free, and promoting your product is arguably more effective using a variety of social platforms as it was working through a carrier’s publishing team.
- Hardware and software development environment costs have fallen with the overall affordability of technology and services. Working against AWS or Azure is both cost effective and simple and there are thousands of available resources and open source libraries that can help small companies move quickly.
- Global staffing still has a troubled reputation as being a less preferable option to on-site staffing, but quality of resources and communication have improved notably over the last decade. Thanks in part to the above factors, the training, background and knowledge of offshore resources has become more ubiquitous as access and availability to tools and information has improved. Costs have also generally increased, but at a rate expected for the improvement in quality.
All of these factors mean that companies big and small have a more level playing field than ever before. While still not a completely even fight; a company with the resources and capabilities of Google can still bring far more to bear to an effort –and afford to lose large amounts of money in the process– than smaller insurgents. This has and always will be true. But where small companies had to largely fly under the radar before there is now room for them to actually compete and win… because the great determining factor is now time. Interestingly enough, using time wisely is something large companies struggle with far more than smaller ones. But urgency without strong communication and collaboration is little more than bottled chaos. Simply pushing your team to go faster is of no value: creating urgency and using time wisely is an art. Doing it correctly requires team buy-in and investment, and never works when dictated by management.
The collaboration space is one of the key battlefields on which the fight for time and urgency will be waged. The ability to quickly gather team members and get them on the same page, literally and figuratively, is the biggest factor in using time to your advantage. It has been said for decades that companies live and die by their communication, and as more companies invest in faster moving technology and globally dispersed teams this is as true as it has ever been. But having team members communicating and collaborating effectively is not only difficult to achieve, it also contributes to significant losses in time.
Simply pushing your team to go faster is of no value: creating urgency and using time wisely is an art.
If you’ve ever worked on a large project there’s a good chance you have experienced the “Summit Meeting”, “War Room”, “Hosted Session” or “Obeya”. This is where, recognizing the need to have a large, dispersed team working together as one, a company gathers all of the resources together in one physical location to “get things done”. The benefits are obvious: being together in one room breaks down misconceptions, allows for quick sharing of information and bonds teams together. There is no argument that putting people in one room makes everything easier.
It’s also expensive and in nearly every case projects lose as much time as they gain in basic travel logistics. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t happen; face-to-face time has overwhelming benefits to a project’s success. But if a project requires this level of collaboration on a constant basis, it finds itself fighting a battle with diminishing returns. The human impact of constantly uprooting and moving people as proven long-term negative results. Some people are born to be nomads… but most aren’t. Having people be effective where they live is how companies win the time battle, and that’s why the collaboration space is so important to the future.
Collaboration goes far beyond audio and video conferencing systems. Collaboration is about being able to quickly share thoughts, ideas, concepts, code and iterate on those items as naturally and fluidly as if you were in the same room as your team. Take the rise and rapid adoption of Slack as an example; Slack as a product has many values but the biggest one is its most basic: it allows teams to communicate in an easy way. Teams that communicate save time. Companies that save time win.
Our challenge is to keep finding new ways to improve collaboration and remove the barriers of location and language into the simple, universal methods of communication and teamwork. Doing so leverages and empowers the most important asset of every company — the team — and puts them in the position to not only move quickly and innovate faster, but to enjoy what they are doing along the way.
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