Everyone loves an underdog tale; one in which the smaller or weaker party succeeds in the face of impossible odds. Perhaps this is why the story of David and Goliath has been so enduring: an unfancied combatant turning weakness into advantage in order to take down his gigantic opponent.
Interestingly, in recent years the story has been turned on its head. Noted thinker Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out a number of misconceptions in the legend, ranging from Goliath’s own overestimated powers to David’s perceived flaws. It’s easy to draw a parallel between the aforementioned biblical battle and the current state of business.
The world of business has always been unbalance and unequal, though it may not be in the way you think it is. As Pat Gelsinger noted in the 2015 VMworld keynote, “People are changing the rules of the game. New start-ups with nothing to lose are embracing new models. They are attacking and threatening incumbents.”
While traditionally it has been big business who benefited from an asymmetric business world, the ever increasing pace of change – in customer expectations, internal technology demands, and time to market constraints – has meant that it is now the smaller businesses who are in the ascendancy. Agility and flexibility are the crucial components of success; with large enterprises weighed down by legacy technology or outdated processes, smaller rivals who can adapt their business model on demand have found themselves in an ideal position.
We now expect David to beat Goliath.
But this hasn’t always been the case. When did it become a start-ups market? Here are the face key factors that have helped contribute to today’s asymmetric world:
.1 An Increasingly Dynamic Workplace
Work is no longer just a physical place, it is what you do. Our relationship to the office has changed. Teams are becoming global and employees, although they are spending less time at their desk, are now more productive than ever – able to work remotely, from any location, via any device.
Organisations which can recognise this, and satisfy employee demands for more workplace freedom, will be able to reap the rewards.
.2 Multiple Workforce Demographics
We now have more demographics in our organisations than ever before. From Baby Boomers through to Generation X and Y, and finally, Millennials, businesses must cater to the needs of the entire workforce, while offering the guidance to help improve technology proficiency where required.
Although Millennials have received a number of plaudits over the past few years as a modernising force in reshaping the workplace, it’s important to recognise that not simply a matter of birth date but an attitude towards IT. Employees of all ages should be encouraged to develop new digitally-focused skillsets in order to help drive agility and innovation across the business. In fact, our research found that employees enjoy learning new digital skills and finding ways of working that will drive productivity in the business, so much that almost two thirds (64 per cent) are willing to use their own time to do this.
.3 Unpredictable Revenue Flows
If companies such as Uber, AirBnB or Netflix have taught us only one thing, then it is that revenue flows can be opened or disrupted at any time. Planning and investment is therefore far more difficult; staying ahead of the competition requires a flexible approach to business, with organisation now required to take new services to market as quickly as possible, and alter their strategy when necessary.
.4 The Fading Relationship between Investment Requirement and Market Presence
The rules to success are changing and winning in a new market now relies upon far more than simply having feet on the ground in a region. Cloud computing has simplified the challenge of setting up IT infrastructure in new geographies, meaning organisations are now able to grow and extend with far less investment than ever before. The same can be said for bringing new products, services, or business units to the market – the mobile era of IT means that organisations can open new revenue opportunities with greater ease.
.5 Changing Customer Needs
To keep pace in today’s liquid world, customers turn to their mobile device to complete tasks while on the go. They want to be able to self-serve and they expect the companies they do business with to provide these capabilities. If you can’t keep up then you’re not only losing sales, you’re in danger of losing valuable ground to your rivals.