June 25, 2013

Executing Faster for Market Advantage

Rich Moore is president of Rich Moore, Inc. and is a trusted advisor to CEOs of emerging growth technology firms with a focus on raising valuations.  He currently serves as board member and/or advisor for seven companies in the software and entertainment industries. He spoke with Digital Growth Insights about the trends he sees in using technology to secure market advantage.

Please give our readers some background on your company, and yourself.

Well, I’m president of my own consulting firm, Rich Moore, Inc., but actually, some refer to me as a professional board member and business advisor to emerging growth technology company CEOs, primarily in software.  Most of these companies are private and venture-funded; some are public and most often selling B2B.  Experiencing rapid  growth curves have taught me how to spot and avoid common pitfalls in expansionary periods.  Even more valuable is objectively seeing their windows of market readiness – and helping them act on this through product and positioning that raises the valuations of these firms.

It is amazing how parallel some of the business challenges and opportunities can be among these firms, despite such different technologies.  Most run into issues eventually around scaling the product, an issue that may not have been planned for during initial development.   Or in another example, they may all deservedly promote good people until, without planning, one day a team of middle managers exists with little experience at the next level or with newer technologies.

You work with the leadership of many technology companies – what kind of trends are you seeing now?

Coming up through marketing, product management and international sales during my career, I tend to look at trends through a “going to market” perspective, as do the CEOs that I work with.  Across the board right now, there is a heightened sense of urgency around getting to market quickly, with the right product or service, and getting there in time to capture newfound revenue.

The days of lengthy timelines for concept-to-market are over.  Changes in direction that delay sales have become less tolerable.  The initial product strategy needs to be solid, and the development process predictable.

Social media is one key reason for this increasing pressure. As you know, social media in our everyday lives has compressed all communication; instant news, real-time awareness, rapid feedback.  Markets today want solutions now, before something else changes.  Speed and high quality are the expectation, and it has pushed businesses to run at the same fast pace.  And this pace demands collaborative resources outside of the core team to get there; not competing with the internal team, but in partnership, and providing complementary, business-focused talents.

What other trends?

The decision-makers are shifting.  Where we used to see decision-making on the build of the product rest with the technology exec with input from the business unit, accountability is now increasingly in the reverse.  Technology leadership owns execution, but accountability on spec’ing the business requirements and overall goal achievement for revenue is often with the business unit.  The CEO’s question, “Why don’t we have revenue from this product yet?” is having to be answered by the business unit and less by the technology group.  The technology group still shines in seeking creative innovation from internal and external sources.  But it has to deliver revenue.

You sit on multiple company boards. What are the common denominators driving this trend/shift?  

In recent years with a strained economic climate and revenue as top-of-mind, product specification is more frequently asking the competitive advantage question up front.  “Will these proposed technical capabilities truly give us greater competitive advantage?”  And asking this question is forcing added attention to overall market trends, timelines and more detailed competitor assessments, driving increased collaboration with partner organizations.

Another common denominator observed is a deeper focus on domain experience among the companies I work with.  Companies are acquiring domain experts within their ranks and thereby building stronger customer bonds, credibility through understanding and are better equipped at solving industry-specific issues.  This emphasis appears to be building and supporting very long-term customer relationships.

Why do larger companies struggle with innovation, and what can be done about it?

It’s all about empowerment of people closer to the customer.  As an organization grows with more layers of management, the successful CEO will ensure those closest to the customer – who best understands their needs – are given increasing authority to innovate and even take risks in finding creative solutions.

The biggest risk, however, is losing time-to-market in exploration and assessment, where there may already be “solution accelerators” developed that could speed the innovation process.

Whatever the path, the CEO must take decisive action to counterbalance the effects organizational growth has on innovation.  Innovation just won’t happen through excessive layers of process and communication.

In the next 18-24 months, how do you see the nature of product development inside technology companies changing?

In successful organizations, there will be a marked rise in close, three-way collaboration among company – partners – customers:

1.  Customer-facing company staff with understanding of client need

2.  Company partners that bring augmented revenue strategy and technologies

3.  Customers who are, by their role, accountable for their own new product revenue and success