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Case Analysis: Blind-sighted By An Elephant

Mount the elephant and guide it in a coherent business direction: Don’t allow its bulk to hide the way ahead!

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This case turns the old fable of men groping around an elephant on its head. This is about three sets of fully “sighted” business professionals having their strategic acuity blind-sighted by the technology “elephant”...

1. Protagonist Suvrat: He is most concerned by technology “unreadiness” at Prescott e-tailing business. His stance evolves from IT for growth towards IT for risk-mitigation. However, at both ends of the spectrum, he considers only the proximate factor of technology readiness. Further, he is unable to lay out specific IT-led pathways to specific ‘business growth’ outcomes. His arguments seem at best empirical and at worst hopeful. The vast communication schism between the business and he is almost inevitable. He considers technology as the objective instead of a tool facilitating a quasi-predictable growth path.

On IT-led risk mitigation, his near-sightedness blinds him again. He laments the lack of appropriate IT security solutions when the lacuna lies with underlying processes: IT enabled or otherwise. For instance, operational audits: crucial to a robust operation, are not IT dependent. Of course, IT deployment is inevitable in e-tailing but it is the layer existing on top of a sound process framework. Their on-ground business also might not be as sound on transaction security.. In a relatively opaque business as that, vulnerabilities remain under-exploited.

Yet, the most galling omission seems to revolve around the veritable heart of e-tailing: the user interface. Suvrat is just not able to synthesise and express the business model - user interface link along with the role of IT therein.

Thus, while Suvrat talks about tech enabled growth, his implicit stance is of managing the return on denominator (productivity) ahead of growing the numerator disruptively (transformative business growth). This is disturbing because Prescott doesn’t seem to have a cohesive reason for success in e-tailing anyway (stumbling onto a successful flank, selling everything opportunistically…). All evidence suggests that such an IT approach could lead to putting more distance between Prescott and consumer.

2. Antagonist 1: Prescott’s business leadership team. Here, not only did they enter e-tailing tactically (an expensive stance) but they continue to lack a business model and an existential rationale. The entire narrative revolves around the elephant: execution and technology: IT investment, IT costs, IT synergy between traditional and new businesses… Their whole stance is reminiscent of export container mentality in traditional businesses wherein 20 per cent of business often comes from opportunistic shipping to alien geographies. The moment a business is seen as a tactical flank when in reality it calls for a new business model, the problems cited are inevitable. Shortsightedness on investments, opportunistic customer and transaction management... ensue.

3. Antagonist 2: Prescott’s IT, Risk & Compliance teams. They also seem blindsighted by the tech discourse given their lack of appropriate experience. In reality, they failed much before in not institutionalising processes. Sadly, implementation of a headlined IT system became a panacea and a misunderstood objective unto itself.

Probable sequential way forward:

Plug leakages:

1. Nail systemic process vulnerabilities with IT help, where reasonable Set business bulwark:
2. Establish strategic rationale for e-tailing success with right market and organisation insights;
3. Nail target market, behaviours, interface required; 4. Map consequent front-end processes;
5. Map consequent back-end processes and controls Execute with IT as discreet enabler:
6. Deploy IT basis role vis-à-vis processes and business impact rationale; 7. Deploy IT for outcome diagnostics and course correction

Mount the elephant and guide it in a coherent business direction: Don’t allow its bulk to hide the way ahead!

The writer is Founding Partner and Director of Cosmos Strategy Consultants, a global business strategy consulting firm focussing on insight driven business entry, growth and transformations

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Ashutosh Tiwari

The writer is Founding Partner and Director of Cosmos Strategy Consultants, a global business strategy consulting firm focussing on insight driven business entry, growth and transformations

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