Kill Your Blindspots in 2017 - Excerpt from the Uncertain Times

JP Morgan’s announced at the beginning of 2016 that it was going to replace all of their Bloomberg terminals; the contract value of which is tens of millions each year. This is another unfortunate example of how great companies can still get blindsided by market conditions or competitive moves. Like Montgomery Ward, Sears, JC Penny, and a host of other technology companies, Bloomberg rested on its superior brand and product position. After all, who could live without a Bloomberg terminal? The competition, however, was not sleeping, but working hard. And now, the competition is so strong that Bloomberg may end up in significant financial peril. 


 

JP Morgan’s announced at the beginning of 2016 that it was going to replace all of their Bloomberg terminals; the contract value of which is tens of millions each year. This is another unfortunate example of how great companies can still get blindsided by market conditions or competitive moves. Like Montgomery Ward, Sears, JC Penny, and a host of other technology companies, Bloomberg rested on its superior brand and product position. After all, who could live without a Bloomberg terminal? The competition, however, was not sleeping, but working hard. And now, the competition is so strong that Bloomberg may end up in significant financial peril. 

Is your company as oblivious to changes in innovation just as Bloomberg has been? How do you know if you have your finger on the pulse well enough that you won’t get blindsided?

Ask yourself these questions as you peer into 2017:

  • Have you lost more than one big “last stage” deal that sales was certain was part of their “commit?” If you have, is someone beyond just sales analyzing the trend? 
  • Were you surprised to find that you lost a large customer, like Bloomberg, only after it was too late to adapt? 
  • Are you ready with alternatives to various scenarios coming out of BREXIT, or are you waiting to see what really happens? 

Blind spots happen when our organization gets too busy executing and doesn’t have a persistent process to listen. Listen to what? 

Customers

Too busy to listen across our customer base, we rely on the insights of our largest customers. The trouble is, they are already large, committed and might not represent all segments. Or, we rely on our most loyal customers to continue their loyal purchasing but haven’t visited with executives enough to know their hidden perceptions and eminent business challenges. 

Markets 

Too busy to formally assess market-wide issues, we wait until we “know” what will happen to respond. The trouble is, that leaves us flat footed and incapable of keeping up with smaller or more nimble companies who have planned to take advantage of issues like BREXIT or changes in oil prices, or shifts in the cost of money. 

Employees 

How often do great ideas or key risks sit buried in the organization? You know the quote: “if you ask a consultant for the time, they’ll ask you for your watch.” It is a joke that points out that consultants are great at asking your own employees for their best ideas. Don’t be surprised.

Consultants know that many great ideas lie buried in organizations where managers have stopped listening. It’s a shame you wind up paying millions just to listen. Are you listening to employees? When was the last time a great idea came from somewhere else but your executive staff, or your formal R&D organization? If it’s been a while, you probably run the risk of getting blindsided. 

Profitability 

Changes in price points, costs of raw materials or even manufacturing approach can change actual profits. Is your organization certain of the actual costs for engineer-to-order or configure-to-order or custom service quotes? Do you know the cost to serve or service? 

If you answered yes to questions like the ones above, we suggest you get a systematic process for sense-response going inside your organization in 2017. 

What is systematic Sense-Response? It is the consistent use of processes, people and social listening tools to identify risks and predict competitive moves across customers, employees, competitors, and costs. 

How can you get started? 

View listening as a persistent strategic function 

Staff it. If someone in your strategy team isn’t listening for risk, it just won’t happen consistently in this dynamic, uncertain environment. 

Get listening out of the random 

Start with monthly. In most organizations, risk and competitive analysis happens perhaps once or twice per year. Or, maybe it happens sooner when someone happens to pick up on an issue in the Wall Street Journal. That’s too slow or random for today’s economy. 

Use techniques you already know 

Many companies have grown to manage their brands with social media tools. In retail and CPG, it is all but essential. Now, we can take those same tools and point them at newsfeeds to listen for competitive and market moves, at customer communities to listen for risks and issues and at employees to listen for risks and issues that must be addressed. You can also use some powerful content aggregators but read them systematically. 

Start with an important challenge. Nothing is worse than standing up a new process waiting for results. Stand up your Sense-Response mechanism by attacking a known but unaddressed problem. Have you surveyed your customers to see how current conditions are affecting them on the downside or upside? If not, start there.

Alta Via has put some thought into how you can stand up a productive, valuable sense and response mechanism. Want to learn a bit more? Click here for our Outside-In solution brief.

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