eBusiness Secrets is a new series of in-depth articles about Internet mediated Business and Commerce, what makes a great eBusiness and how do the best ensure they keep thriving online.
I’m a Renaissance Man: skilled in Marketing, eBusiness & IT and possessed by a keen commercial appetite, I have always found myself at the crossroads between corporate functions. Many corporate structures pre-date the Internet and organizations typically find it difficult to get their different departments (Marketing, Sales, IT, Product development, customer service, etc) to work together. There’s were I come in: wearing the customers’ hat, pulling resources into a virtual group, getting people across different functions to work together and embedding the practice of eBusiness into companies rarely set up to make the most of their online channels.
I recently came across this quote from Bill Buxton at Microsoft:
The renaissance is over – the problems are far too difficult for any one individual to have sufficient knowledge to advance them. On the other hand, the renaissance team is possible and our only hope is the collective – the cross disciplinary team. Engineering and computer science, interaction design, ethnography, marketing and sales.
My initial reaction was dismissal: engineer speak -I thought. Don’t they like to sound like they’re saving the day? Then I read it again, and I got it. I’ve spent so much energy making people work together: people from different backgrounds, with different goals and incentives, with wildly different skills and attitudes…
I have been building Renaissance Teams! Teams that have been consistently successful at adding remarkable value to the organizations that asked me to set them up. Temporary, project-centered teams have worked wonders for me, but if corporations are to go full-on down this route, implications are profound: they’ll need to restructure themselves radically.
Companies must reshape away from a structure that clusters similarly-skilled people together, instead grouping diverse individuals around shared goals. eBusiness departments are best placed to lead the charge: we’re typically the youngest function. Frequently, tiny resources force us to beg, borrow and steal talent internally. We also have some of the most accurate measurement around: we can clearly define, measure and refine our goals and activities based on what customers and markets do.
The corporate world has not yet started this journey -indeed, it has not yet realized this is a journey it must set off on. Opportunities will be huge: small teams bursting with a rich set of complimentary skills are ideally suited to the quick pace demanded of today’s companies. They are also best able to intimately understand their customers and to create products and services that are truly unique – that feel truly personal to those customers. These teams must be tight-knit, their members expert practitioners of their own trade. Renaissance Teams demand top-notch people full time: top talent rather than a flexible pool of resource. Dedication and passion, not scale. Is this something an outsourcing arrangement or an agency are likely to be able to provide?
Will companies rearrange themselves to take advantage of this opportunity? Will large services organizations adapt or dissappear? Will something else, hitherto unpredicted, be the real catalyst to change? I’m not sure yet. In the meantime, I’ll remain a builder of Renaissance Teams. I’ve yet to see one that doesn’t deliver great results.