I don’t know about you, but these feel like the most “disruptive” of times that I can recall, and I can guarantee that I am older than most people who read my posts. Companies like Uber are disrupting century-old, facility, asset and people heavy industries, like the Taxi business… with freaking software!
Where are you in this landscape? Uber, or Taxi?
Smaller organizations are winning against larger corporations everyday… with technology alone. If you look across any industry, even yours, the once dominant players are facing stiff competition from competitors, who seemingly came out of nowhere, but digitally transformed themselves, and are changing the established rules of the game… your game. I think there are really only three types of businesses in the entire world: a few who are ahead of the curve, like Uber, who are disrupting existing norms and literally taking whatever they want. On the other end, are a significant number that seem to be operating on the hope that they will be sold or can retire, before they get “Ubered”. Lastly, there is the big fat middle, swimming along without a care in the world, oblivious to the “Uber” Sharks circling them, like the Taxi industry was. In almost every industry today, your choice is to either disrupt, or be disrupted… there is no third choice.
Technology Drives Disruption
How do you disrupt? Well, when you look at the big market and industry shaking disruptors today, like Uber, NetFlix and Amazon, for example, they all have one secret weapon. They are in front of the technology curve… not on it… not behind it. They use technology to pummel the established inhabitants of the space they invade. Whacking them over the head with a technological sword that the recipient did not even know existed. To be fair, these well-known disruptors now have zillions of dollars, to continue to invest in technology, to continue to stay ahead of the curve. Uber knocked the Taxi Cab Industry down, fast and hard… they do not plan on letting up. But they did not start with zillions of dollars. When they first started they were probably not any better capitalized than you are now. The difference is that they invested that meager capital into technology… to build a sword. They did not have an advantage over you, they just chose to invest smarter than you have. But you can play that game too.
A Microsoft Fanboy
Yup, I admit it, I am a huge fan of what Microsoft is doing. Microsoft is disrupting by providing the tools for others to disrupt. Sure, there are other providers of this kind of technology, and many had been way ahead of Microsoft. Under their former leadership, Microsoft was starting to catch up, but with the Satya Nadella regime change, Microsoft has quickly blown past everybody and left them spinning on their heels. Microsoft is now the company to catch up to. It is amazing what can be achieved with the right people and a huge war-chest of cash. The biggest challenge for Microsoft today, is their partners keeping up with them, and that is no small problem. Microsoft partners are also being disrupted. Before moving to Microsoft, many of you know, we were Salesforce.com consultants; back then, Salesforce.com was the disruptor. From over there, it became clear to me that Microsoft was on an alternate trajectory, not so much trying to catch up with Salesforce.com, but rather on a course plotted to intersect way beyond. We jumped trains.
The Game Board
So how has Microsoft invested their massive war-chest? The lion’s share of their investment has come in areas where few others have the ability to invest at similar scale: the platform. From not even being on the map a few years ago, Microsoft now has over 34 massive Azure Cloud Data-centers around the globe; to put that into context, that is more than Amazon, and more than Google…combined. That is insane! But this has not just a race to throw up cloud data centers faster than anybody else, they also built these better than the existing state-of-the-art. To be fair, state-of-the-art is easy to redefine when you are so late to the party; by comparison all other data centers are old… because they were built first. So there is actually a significant advantage to coming in late (ya see what I did there?). Microsoft was able to take advantage of seeing what existed, and improving on it. For example, all customer deployments include Disaster Recovery, automatically, with a recovery time of less than 1 hour. The prior State-of-the-Art was days! Also, Azure SQL Database Elastic Pools is an entirely different way of managing SaaS, which provides more capabilities at a lower cost. All customer deployments provide High Availability, not just the enterprise customers… but all of them! All customer data is fully protected by encryption at rest… and the customer has the damn key! Another area that Microsoft’s platform has blown past everybody is in compliance, nobody has more compliance certifications than Microsoft does, not by a long-shot. It’s no wonder, that when I hear a SMB customer say they think their data is safer in their own hands, I think, “You’re a Moron”. The only valid reason to not use cloud today would be some legitimate “technical” limitation, and those are few. All other reasons are B.S., Microsoft has put you in Check-Mate.
The Game Pieces
It is no question that Azure is the Queen of the Microsoft platform game board; Office 365 is the Rook, and Dynamics 365 is the Bishop, but they both ride on the queen’s powerful coattails. Together, they are the most powerful pieces on the board. With the adept use of just these pieces, you can easily decimate your opponent in chess, and in business. Business is rapidly becoming a zero-sum game; your gain is someone else’s loss, and vice versa. Even the Disruptors with altruistic goals, will achieve those at the financial expense of those who they disrupt. The pie is not growing as fast as these guys can eat it… they will take your slice. Maybe you should consider becoming a pie-eater, maybe you already are considering it, but are not sure where to begin. In case none of this has sunk in yet, technology is where you start. To steal a phase from Survivor, you must “Outwit, Outplay and Outlast” your competition.
Weaponizing a Utility
The first step in becoming a disruptor is to change your thinking. Way too many Businesses, and SMB in particular, think of technology as a utility. I want you to close your eyes and think about what technology as a weapon means. When used as a weapon, technology means that you “know” more than your competitor, about your customers and about your industry. It means you are faster than your competitors, faster to respond and faster to perform. It means, to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, being were the puck is going to be, while your competition is where it is now.
In order to use technology as a weapon, it must be light and fast. This is where the cloud comes in. If 3/4 of your technology investment goes to maintaining infrastructure, you are fat, and your sword is heavy. Forget about all of the reasons that you have used to convinced yourself that cloud is not right for you, and instead think about having a lighter sword. Your reasons are B.S. anyway. If the cloud is the sword, then Office 365 and Dynamics 365 are the two sharp edges. With the Office 365 edge, you slice the chain, releasing the heavy ball holding your Productivity back. With the Dynamics 365 edge, you cut the rope holding the gate blocking your ability to “see”, and be, ahead of your competition.
In future posts I will discuss these sword edges in more detail.