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Fail fast is negative, try ‘iterate fast’

Fail fast is negative, try ‘iterate fast’

Executives at Yellow, Spark Digital and Vector talk about balancing business as usual and startup operations.

At the Business Transformation Panel: Simon Gillespie, General Manager Corporate Clients, Spark Digital; Brian Ryan, Group General Manager Development, Vector; Michael Boersen, CEO, Yellow; and Strahan Wallis, Managing Director, Porter Novelli (moderator)
At the Business Transformation Panel: Simon Gillespie, General Manager Corporate Clients, Spark Digital; Brian Ryan, Group General Manager Development, Vector; Michael Boersen, CEO, Yellow; and Strahan Wallis, Managing Director, Porter Novelli (moderator)
The overused phrase ‘fail fast’ is in need of a revamp.

“Fail fast is negative, it is far more encouraging to ‘iterate fast’,” says Brian Ryan, group general manager development, Vector.

Ryan spoke at the ‘Business Transformation Panel’ organised by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

Ryan and the other panellists,Simon Gillespie, general manager corporate clients, Spark Digital and Michael Boersen, CEO of Yellow, talked about the steps they have taken in a fast changing business environment.

It is about speed

Brian Ryan, Vector

Ryan says big data plays an important role in helping the company transform itself.

Read more: The art of leading high-performing teams

“We see it as a tool to make better decisions, insights and foresights,” he says.

Also, data analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated and easier to interact with, he adds

Ryan says the 'doing' or getting on with things is critical to iterating fast.

“It is about speed,” says Ryan. "Do it fast, iterate fast – it builds momentum, attracts people, it starts to get momentum in the business.”

Read more: The rise of ‘app only’ organisations and other tech-fuelled disruptions

“It is okay to fail but learn from it much,” he says. “How do you integrate this to the culture?”

Related: Dr Barry Devlin on 'How to take the mind-set of a startup’

The innovation hub

Michael Boersen of Yellow says the company had considered itself the “Google of the print world”, printing the business directories that became the references across New Zealand.

But as people moved to the digital world, he says, we had to be more innovative or “do something different”.

“If you want to reiterate, you can do a lot of that within the business,” he says. “If you want to do something fundamentally different, you need a new fresh approach to what you are doing.”

It is a disruptive world we live in. Therefore, we need to have the ability to change on a regular basis.

Michael Boersen, Yellow

Boersen says while some of the larger organisations with bigger asset bases have to do some longer-term planning, the challenge for a company like Yellow is different.

“You get a smaller player come in and their plans are what [they would] do in the next three months.

“The world changes very quickly, it is a disruptive world we live in. Therefore, we need to have the ability to change on a regular basis, so we know where we are going to be in 18 months to two years.”

“You [must] have the ability to iterate as you go, change direction.”

Yellow started looking at what it could fundamentally do differently using its own strengths.

"We spent a lot of time discussing what are our strengths, what is happening in the world. We need to refine our digital directory properties."

"We have a strong brand and a connection to small businesses,” he states. “We went from advertising focused to consumer focused.

“Consumers demand a lot of the activity. If you do not take that into consideration, you will not survive.

“We are not short of ideas [on] what we are going to do going forward. We do that in the new world, in the innovatiion hub.”

He says Yellow took a team of “creative people” and gave them the license to go and do something different.

“It releases the team from all constraints of the business, it allows you to think outside the square for the type of people you want.

“While there are rules around them, you would give them the license to go and operate because they need to create something different versus keeping the business going."

“It was essential for us to have people who were innovative and willing to take risks and look at the future.”

He says a project based on the work of this team will be launched next month.

The next challenge is finding how to bring the legacy businesses, which do have a strengths, into the 'new world focus', he states.

Related: A top tip for managing the CIO’s balancing act of melding the technology and business aspects of the role

Read more: Get ready for IoT disruptions across sectors

Build a startup

Simon Gillespie says Spark Digital has created Spark Ventures, which acts as an incubator “that drives different behaviour and cycles”.

Gillespie says Spark Digital has BAU [business as usual] activities, but Spark Ventures has a mandate to be different.

Read more: Program to help innovative Kiwi tech startups go global

Start with ‘why’ you should do it.

Simon Gillespie, Spark Digital

He says Skinny, Qrious and Lightbox came out of Spark Ventures.

Gillespie says sometimes it is scary to change into new things when you do not know the outcome.

Read more: The IT function no longer holds a monopoly on IT: Every employee is a digital employee

“Start with why” you should do it.

Boersen says organisations need to take risks to change, but at the same time people must have fun while they do the hard work.

“People will work hard if they know the purpose and have an opportunity to enjoy themselves,” he says.

Related: ‘Every business unit is now a technology start-up’ says Gartner

Read more: Movers & shakers: Robyn Gillespie (Opus) & Paul Mahoney (Public Trust)

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