Survival of the Fastest in the Enterprise Orchestration Era

Survival of the fastest has never been truer. According to the World Economic Forum, 52% of the firms listed on the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 are gone. The average tenure on that list in 1955 was 75 years. The average tenure in 2015 was 15 years.

A good part of the reason: companies know that they have to transform to thrive but an astounding 84% of enterprise digital transformations fail according to Forbes. Those aren’t unique in the landscape of enterprise projects. In 2017, data from The Standish Group tells us that 64% of enterprise projects were either over budget/time, didn’t meet stakeholder needs, or failed entirely.

These effects are accelerating so quickly that the data is out of date as soon as it’s published. The last year of COVID has been an exponential force multiplier on those rates of transformation. As we’ve shared in our blog before (Elevate Your Business Process), at the end of April 2020, only two months into lockdown, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella shared some incredible stats about the transformation they had witnessed:

In April, we saw more than 200 million Microsoft Teams meeting participants in a single day, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Also, Teams now has more than 75 million daily active users, and two-thirds of them have shared, collaborated, or interacted with files on Teams as well. We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.

That rate only accelerated over the next ten months. A McKinsey Global Survey of executives in late 2020 found that their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years.

Welcome to the Enterprise Orchestration Era

We’re now in a new era that’s demanding that enterprises — more so than ever before — effectively orchestrate people, processes, and technology to drive better outcomes, faster. For today’s leading enterprises, it’s about conducting the symphony of your best players so that they’re all in sync, on time, and playing together.

Our customers, who are some of the world’s largest and most successful enterprises, are looking for new, more effective ways to orchestrate. The world is changing rapidly around them, and their challenges are evolving alongside that change. They need new ways to orchestrate both the way team members work within their work groups, as well as orchestrating how multiple teams can be better aligned to work more effectively together.

Those organizations are transforming (or re-orchestrating!) how their organization operates day-to-day. They’re also identifying and orchestrating very targeted, game-changing strategic transformations, from organization-wide transformations orchestrated by a centralized Transformation Office, to function-specific transformations run by line of business owners, to program-specific transformations like technology delivery. Across all manner of critical initiatives, effective enterprise orchestration will be a differentiator to thrive in the future.

The Sensei Labs team began studying what we consider the future of work many years ago. Our thoughts were captured in The Decoded Company, our New York Times bestselling book released in 2014. Our thinking was very well received at the time and led directly to the creation of Sensei Labs and our Conductor platform. The book’s success gave us the chance to speak around the world at places like Harvard, NASA, TED, and Google and Twitter’s campuses. It remains as relevant today as it was then. We talk to partners and customers every day who are still challenged with conducting this symphony and being able to effectively orchestrate their teams.

These concepts around how to help organizations orchestrate, sometimes referred to as tech-enabled collaborative work management, is at the very core of what we do today. Through our partner-centric business model, we often work with leading global consulting firms, or if organizations have in-house strategic expertise, directly with Fortune 1000 and large government organizations, to deliver on the promise of Enterprise Orchestration. All of those partners and customers have contributed to our understanding of how people work together, and how to plan, orchestrate, and deliver their critical initiatives.

Changing market forces

We’ve observed a remarkably consistent set of changing market forces across those many customer engagements. There isn’t a single driver behind the need to reimagine enterprise orchestration, but rather four significant trends:

  • No enterprise is immune to today’s rapidly emerging competitive threats. Between changing market conditions, global pandemics, supply chain disruption, shifts to hybrid office and remote work, new emerging competitors, etc., every aspect of an organization’s day-to-day is disruptively changing at an unprecedented pace. Every single organization in the world needs to adopt an attitude that disruptive change will be constant and accelerating.
  • Transformations can no longer be considered a single event or project that concludes. Successful enterprises will adopt a corporate posture of constant evolution and will restructure their people, platforms, and policies to encourage experimentation and agility in order to embrace change. Unsuccessful enterprises, who hold true to their old ways and don’t adopt a new attitude, will cease to exist at a faster and faster pace.
  • Ongoing transformation creates increased risk, requiring more discipline and transparency. In the old world, the risk was that something would change and disrupt your long-established playbooks. In the new world, the certainty is things will change and cause disruption and so the risks become about how quickly you can respond to it. This will require a different form of adaptive playbooks, less about risk management through policy and more about risk management by building highly responsive teams equipped with the right tools to orchestrate their rapid responsiveness. It also means pushing decision making to the edges of the network where your people have real-time access to the right data to make better decisions faster. The days of centralized, rigid, hierarchical organizations are behind us.
  • Change management frameworks and tools are required to support continuous transformation. Traditional transformations looked more at the ‘hard’ side of deploying new systems, reducing costs, etc. Survival of the fastest means looking at the ‘soft’ side too — perhaps even ‘more’ — and establishing frameworks to build responsive organizations in which change management is business-as-usual. This includes establishing communication pathways, retraining and upskilling team members in advance, identifying agile teams who can assemble on a moment’s notice, breaking down communication silos, and building single sources of truth that are reliably updated so that real-time decision making is possible.

These four forces combine to drive the need for change we outlined at the top of this post. There are many examples of companies successfully meeting this confluence head on and transforming to thrive. We believe enterprise orchestration is the key for how you can do the same.


Enterprise Orchestration Era webinar series

We launched our Enterprise Orchestration Era webinar series offering individual sessions, each focused on a topic that enterprises are grappling with. In each webinar, we share the knowledge and expertise we’ve gained over the years, customer case studies, and Conductor features that help leading enterprises orchestrate their teams. Our most recent session focused on large-scale Strategic Transformation as a growing imperative for enterprise survivability. I hope you’ll join us for upcoming sessions or take a look at some of the recorded ones we’ve already run.

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Jay Goldman

Jay thinks he might be the luckiest guy in the world because he got to co-found Sensei Labs and spend his days working hard to invent the Future of Work alongside this amazing crew. He’s focused on technology, design, and the art of leadership. In addition to writing here, Jay co-wrote the New York Times Bestseller THE DECODED COMPANY: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers (Portfolio/Penguin), cooked up the O’Reilly Facebook Cookbook, and contributed to the Harvard Business Review. He frequently speaks to teams and companies about the Future of Work, including at TEDx, NASA, Harvard Business School, Google, and Twitter’s World Headquarters.

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