Today’s business landscape is shaped by technology. Leaders of organizations of any size and shape must navigate terrain that rises and falls on mega-trends such as mobility, cloud services and big data.
The journey can be especially rigorous for executives leading small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) who, as we’ve asserted in past posts, need to think and act like “Big Time CIOs” to cope with the “Digital Transformation” of their organizations and industries. These days SMB leaders must see the “I” in the role of CIO as not only “Information,” but as “Innovation.”
The challenge for SMBs goes beyond being tech-savvy. As one-time SMB exec and renowned visionary Steve Jobs once said: "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
So, when we found a recent slideshow on ITBusinessEdge (ITBE) about the “essential traits” of digital innovators, we wanted to share our perspective on the three characteristics from the list we feel are critical for SMBs:
- Think Fast, and Move Just as Swiftly – Digital technology has created an expectation of immediacy throughout our culture – especially in business. The spread of the internet and steadily increasing processing power and bandwidth has not only made us all more mobile, it’s led us to believe that any transaction can happen at the speed of a click, tap or swipe. Digital innovators focus relentlessly on shortening the time between ideas and execution, and adjust people, processes and platforms to optimize each stage of a product or service lifecycle to ensure rapid development and delivery.
- Fail Fast, and Learn Just as Quickly – As the editors of ITBE put it: “For digital innovators, failure is not an option – it's a necessity.” Innovation requires taking risks and making mistakes in the process. What separates success from failure is the pace and persistence of learning from those mistakes and sustaining high tolerance for those risks. Here’s where SMB leaders have a competitive advantage over many of their counterparts operating in large enterprises. By nature, SMBs have an entrepreneurial spirit, which predisposes them to the trial-and-error routine necessary not only to operate in a digital business environment, but to thrive in one. SMB leaders know how to start small and then scale up, budgeting for a few stumbles along the way.
- Listen All the Time, and Adjust Just as Often -- Digital innovators embrace a culture of continuous feedback from customers, colleagues and partners that enables them to think fast, move fast, fail fast and learn at the same pace. Again, SMBs may have an edge in this regard, as their organizations typically are more flexible and agile than any conventional corporate monolith that competes with them. Coping with continuous, incremental change is the hallmark of a successful SMB in any industry.
In addition to these traits of digital innovators, most SMBs have the competitive advantage of being comfortable seeking support from expert resources outside of their organizations. To quote one of our own past posts: “The role of IT Managed Services Providers (IT MSPs) is evolving rapidly from tactical business considerations – i.e., saving expense and cutting costs – to strategic issues, such as security and compliance.” So, whatever is necessary to support your process of innovation, there’s an MSP
specializing in ways to help.