I remember many years ago being confronted with (says something about my age…) the decision on which Windows platform we would re-develop our originating Time & Attendance solution. At the time, we considered this a big decision. We decided to make this big decision and jumped straight from DOS to Windows NT3.5. I think it was the right decision.
We were confronted with a similar decision 2 years ago when trying to decide the future of software applications for traditional functions. We decided then that software would become more ubiquitous, and personal assistants would be the new interface. Thankfully this ‘big’ call appears to have been the right one. The recent take up of AI in 2023 is a testament to that, and thankfully we are well progressed in providing relevant solutions to our customers in this new paradigm.
Change has always been a constant, however, a new parameter is creating an entirely new landscape for business and that is the speed of the change, and it is this speed of advancement and knowledge attainment that is and will present ongoing challenges and opportunities for all in business.
The sheer speed and scale of these changes make it daunting for any organisation to adapt. One particular area of concern is the growing ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the profound impact it is having on business operations.
AI has come a long way in the last decade, powering everything from personalised recommendations on e-commerce platforms to autonomous vehicles. It has seeped into our lives and businesses so much so that it is beginning to shape how we perceive and interact with the world. But amid the frenzy to use AI to gain a competitive edge, we are often confronted with a significant roadblock: the lack of capacity to adapt. There is no question that we ‘want’ to adapt, but do we have the capacity?
Caught in the grind of daily operations, many companies find themselves unable to spare the resources necessary to implement new technologies effectively. This problem is compounded when the change involves significant shifts like the implementation of new ERP or CRM systems. Maybe not quite as complex as changing the engine of a plane mid-flight, but still shifts that are risky, require company-wide coordination, specialised skills and money.
And yet, just as you can’t stop all planes to upgrade air traffic control systems, businesses cannot halt operations while they transition to new software or systems. So, how can companies keep up with the swift advancements in technology while still keeping the lights on?
At BlueSky, we believe the answer lies in embracing an iterative approach. We’ve reframed our software development strategy to focus on creating a multitude of small, interdependent functions that can be individually updated and repackaged. This approach, often called Microservices, allows us to stay abreast of the latest technological advancements without having to overhaul our entire software stack at once. I no longer think of the big decisions, and I am no longer going to try and bet on Microsoft’s platform direction, any bet today is likely to be flawed or at worst redundant well before the ‘big’ decision can be implemented – such is the speed of change.
But what does this have to do with decision-making in a business? I think quite a lot, actually. As the pace of change accelerates, the repercussions of our decisions will manifest more quickly than ever before. I think it is likely that I will make more mistakes going forward, and therefore, it becomes crucial to minimise the potential fallout from these wrong decisions to enable faster course corrections.
In this new world, the concept of micro-decisions becomes incredibly relevant. These are smaller, less risky decisions that still have a significant impact on the overall direction of the business. By focusing on micro-decisions, we will learn and adapt faster, reducing the damage from wrong turns, taking the learning and quickly capitalising on successful strategies.
To navigate this fast-paced, AI-dominated landscape requires me to rethink our approach to decision-making, where the future is increasingly unpredictable, and making big decisions based on historical patterns is no longer a workable strategy. Instead, we need to become more agile, adaptable, and open to constant learning. We need to make decisions in real-time, based on the most current data, and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.
The future of decision-making in business, then, will be marked by a shift from grand, sweeping decisions to a series of smaller, smarter ones. It will be a world where agility and continuous adaptation are not just desirable attributes but vital survival skills. It will be a world where we’ll need to balance the promise of AI with the realities of day-to-day operations. And while we might not have fortune tellers to guide us, we’ll have something even better: a commitment to ongoing learning, innovation, and the courage to change course when necessary.
We also have to grapple with a fundamental dilemma that innovators often face, one that’s been beautifully articulated by Clayton M. Christensen in his seminal book, ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’. According to Christensen, disruptive technologies – those that are initially inferior to current technology but improve over time and eventually overtake existing products – often catch well-established companies off guard. Not because of ignorance or complacency, but because these companies are so focused on meeting their existing customers’ needs and improving their current products (what Christensen calls ‘sustaining innovation’) that they fail to embrace these disruptive technologies.”
In such a scenario, our approach to making micro-decisions becomes not just a strategy for agility, but also a means to avoid this innovator’s dilemma. These small, adaptable decisions allow us to keep our eyes on the horizon, looking out for potential disruptive technologies that could transform our industry, without losing focus on improving our existing products and processes. It’s about striking the right balance – continuing to innovate and serve our current customers effectively while being ready to pivot and embrace disruptive technologies.”
Another great read – “The Fast Beat the Slow: It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small…It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow” is a book by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton. It was published in 2001 and presents a set of rules that organisations need to follow in order to succeed in the modern, fast-paced business world. The primary argument is that in today’s global marketplace, speed is the most valuable currency, and the ability to quickly adapt to change is vital for survival and growth. Companies that can make fast, informed decisions, adapt their strategies, and implement changes quickly will be better positioned to thrive in the AI-dominated landscape.
In this fast-paced, unpredictable future, our success will depend not on the size of our decisions but on their intelligence, timeliness, and adaptability. After all, in a world dominated by AI, it is our human capacity to adapt and evolve that will determine our success.
As a side note – is it ironic that I have referenced two books, each over 20 years to illustrate my thoughts? Something to chew on. I might go and ask Chat GPT what he/she thinks!