Succeed at the speed of a startup — 7 Concise lessons for enterprise
As disruptions spread across once stable industries — from automotive to banking to medical R&D — it’s time for enterprise to learn from startups.
The startup approach to software development, for example, is to allocate two engineers for three months without fixed scope to a new initiative and then use the results to scale-up the project.
Steve Blank, co-author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual”, defines a startup as an organisation that “works to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” These kind of organisations are characterised by unique qualities and approaches.
These approaches influence the way projects are managed, tools are chosen, internal investments are made, and customers and employees are respected.
As disruptions continue to spread across stable industries, these businesses need to learn from the strategies that startups use to create value and disrupt competitors.
How to grow & succeed at the speed of a startup
7 lessons Concise Software learned from our startup clients that can benefit any business — corporate or startup — to become more agile, competitive, and successful.
by Justyna Kot & Joseph Francis Marsico
1. Take an Agile, MVP approach to software development
The startup approach to software development is to invest small amounts of financial resources into projects without fixed scope for three months to explore the limits of what is possible. The results are then used to scale-up the project.
This same rule applies to both internal employees working on company projects and subcontractors working in their areas of expertise.
Want to launch a new mobile client for a set of key users?
A startup would move straight to action — assign two external or internal engineers to build a prototype and KPIs are defined.
The results from those three months are far more informative than market studies, focus groups, or business cases alone.
2. Use flexible business systems that give individual employees and engineers greater power
When it comes to selecting development and engineering environments — startups choose the framework with the highest level of abstraction.
Startups choose a software development process where a single engineering can have the greatest impact following the mantra: less code, more product, more power.
The same logic also applies to business systems.
For managing our business relationships at Concise, we use Salesforce, which allows our team to add new fields and data points in seconds and create new business reports in minutes. This flexibility empowers our team to focus more on strategy and worry less about the business process.
We also use the same reasoning when we select the frameworks to build client backend services and mobile applications.
For backend development we use Node.JS, which allows a small team of engineers to quickly build scalable services. For mobile development we use the latest languages and frameworks like Swift to build native mobile applications.
3. Less process, more strategy
Marx wrote that in post-capitalism we would all become artists, but in startups we all need to become strategists rather than cogs in a machine. Startups focus on empowering team members with the information they need to make decisions that contribute to the company’s overall vision.
While the business process is still part of this equation, this focus on strategy means that point by point processes are secondary to empowered decision making.
4. Simpler, clearer business tools for alignment
At Concise we use a few extremely clear business processes to maintain alignment and drive growth:
- V2MOMS — A V2MOM is a quarterly document that defines a company’s values, methods, obstacles and measurements (KPIs) for both teams and individuals. These one-page documents, updated every quarter, keep individual actions in sync with where we’re going as a company.
- Daily stand-ups – our teams at Concise have daily stand-ups where blockers are discussed and resolved.
- Wiki-pages for lessons learned and process documentation — we use Confluence pages to internally document lessons learned and business processes.
5. Transparency by default & real-time communication with stakeholders
Transparency shows up in many aspects of a business. Corporate environments love e-mails, long meetings and bureaucracy; but how efficient are these forms of communication?
In startups there is no time for long, unproductive meetings. Speed is vital.
That is why transparency is so important and the chosen tools need to greater support this.
With Slack, for example, chats are public by default and communication is real-time. Meetings can take place online in Zoom or Google Hangouts instead of waiting for empty slots in your team member’s calendar.
At Concise we even add stakeholders to Slack before kickoffs to coordinate getting started as rapidly and transparently as possible.
6. More user experience, less design
Successful tech companies and startups understand that the colour of a button is less important than its placement and the logic behind why a colour is chosen. The overall experience of a user is paramount and design is only one part of the equation.
This approach applies not only to product development but also to a company’s marketing and interactions with both customers and employees.
The same reasoning can also be used to evaluate advertising.
How is an advertisement going to create value for the targeted users? How are they going to interact with it — and how can we optimise this interaction — to create a better experience?
7. Efficiency & speed in every interaction — internal & external
Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly gives a copy of “Competing Against Time” by Jr. George Stalk to every new employee. In this book Stalk argues that companies can use speed, efficiency, and time to their advantage:
“Providing value—delivering new products and services, filling orders, providing services to customers faster than competitors can — is destabilising to the competition. The possibility of establishing a time-based advantage opens new avenues for constructing winning competitive strategies.”
This perspective reinforces the importance of improving efficiency in every aspect of a company’s services and interactions — both internal and external.
At Concise, for example, we answer all project enquiries within an hour. We have calls with potential clients the same day. Kickoffs are planned as soon as a client is ready. All making it possible to launch a new engineering project with Concise within 48h.
All contracts can be signed online. All tools are web-based.
While we concentrate on our area of expertise — hardware-integrated cloud, mobile, and iOT engineering — by making our services more responsive, we also help our clients do the same with the products we build for their customers.
When we deliver faster, they deliver faster, and together we drive our mutual success.
And that, of course, is the holy grail that we all strive for — to create compelling value that drives our mutual growth.
As Blank writes, “the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” However, at Concise the seven lessons described here guide our way forward with clients and partners to build our mutual successes.