Why Some Companies Execute Better

Note: This article is updated at Why Some Companies Execute Better.

Execution is king.  That’s what one of my most seasoned mentors taught me, early on at Microsoft.

I’m always on the hunt for principles, patterns, and practices that improve execution, whether at the individual, team, or organization level.  Since I’ve joined the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team, I get to take more of a balcony view across companies, and see different success patterns for execution.  It’s been very revealing how technology can help a business thrive.  It’s also been revealing how technology decisions can be a distraction or get in the way, if a company doesn’t have clarity on its strategy.

In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeane W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, the authors share their perspective on why some companies execute better.

You Do All the Right Moves, But You Still Can’t Get Ahead
Competition is only getting tougher.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“In short, you do everything the management literature says you should, but you still can’t get ahead.  And the signs aren’t encouraging for the future.  You see Chinese companies taking over manufacturing in industry after industry.  Indian companies providing more and more services.  Small, agile competitors from around the world picking off niche after niche in your markets.  Competition is only getting tougher.”

Yet Some Companies Thrive
Some companies thrive while others are lucky just to survive.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Yet some companies – some of your competitors – seem to be able not just to survive but to thrive.  In the face of tough global competition, companies like Dell, ING DIRECT, CEMEX, Wal-Mart, and others are growing and making money.  These companies have more-productive employees, get more from their investments, and have more success with their strategic initiatives.  What are they doing differently?

They Have a Better Foundation for Execution
They digitized operations and created a foundation for business agility.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“We believe these companies execute better because they have a better foundation for execution.  They have embedded technology in their processes so that they can efficiently and reliably execute their core operations of the company.  These companies have made tough decisions about what operations they must execute well, and they’ve implemented the IT systems they need to digitize those operations.  These actions have made IT an asset rather than a liability and have created a foundation for business agility.”

The question I think this brings to mind is, “Have you identified your core and critical operations, and clarified what to digitize?”

This plays right into thinking about your cloud strategy.