Today, in the era of public cloud Infrastructure as-a-Service (IaaS), the granularity of usage-based purchasing or charging as a utility is back, and it is now easy to split consumption across discrete projects.
The flip side is that, as a technology provider, these changes in customer purchasing styles can also involve alternative financing. As a technology vendor, I have personally experienced all sides of this: selling hardware and software-based products when customers made upfront capital purchases; selling services built on public cloud so both revenue and costs were spread out on a consumption-basis; and the most challenging situation where a service’s underlying hardware was purchased on a capital basis, but the service delivered to customers was sold on a subscription basis. Each situation requires a different set of financial planning.
Lesson: We will continue to see purchasing styles change. Emerging technology leaders must develop financial planning skills to ensure they can properly utilize new purchasing styles and offerings to drive their businesses forward.
Workforce Strategies are Cyclical – Evolve Your Leadership
Even trends in the way companies build out their workforces move in cycles. As a leader, it’s critical to understand these cycles as they will affect the way you lead and support your employees’ career development.
Over the course of my career, I saw the value of generalists versus specialists oscillate. When I began my career, my managers sought to diversify my skills, having me develop my weaker areas (including writing!) to become a more well-rounded employee – in other words, a generalist.
Later, it made more sense to hire specialists with narrower, but deeper knowledge in their fields who could ramp up quickly and play a particular role in a team due to better collaboration tools that enabled skillsharing and the prevalence of job-hopping.
Now, the role of the generalist has made a comeback. Today, companies can hire contractors with almost any skill set via work marketplaces like Upwork, meaning that individual contributors on cross-functional teams must now span multiple areas as a generalist to manage different vendors or freelancers.
If we look at the bigger picture, we’ll see that this cycle also applies to company strategies as a whole. In the past, many companies focused the business on their core competency and outsourced other functions, such as manufacturing or distribution. This made sense for well-established businesses and industries. Recently, we have seen a return to vertical integration, with market disruptors, such as Tesla and Amazon, taking on as much as they can in-house.
Lesson: Understanding cycles in workforce strategies can better inform your leadership style, as well as how you support your employees’ career development. Invest in evolving your leadership skills, whether by attending conferences and workshops or networking with peers, and pay attention to hiring patterns across your industry.
Innovation Itself is Cyclical – Be a Futurist
As counterintuitive as it may sound, innovation itself moves in cycles. What may be new, exciting, and wildly effective now will inevitably evolve into a tired and saturated playing field, and successive innovations eventually repeat history in interesting ways. On the other hand, businesses that go all in on innovations before their time will fizzle out, while businesses that seize the right moment to invest in something can rise meteorically.
Those familiar with the dot-com bust of the early 2000’s know the horror stories of grocery delivery (Webvan), food delivery (Kozmo.com), and even failed website hosting (geocities.com).
And yet, businesses in these markets are thriving today. The secret ingredient? Timing. It just took a period of explosion (the dot-com boom), retraction (the dot-com bust), and a revival (Web 2.0) with refined business models and a more technology-savvy user base.
Let’s look at an example from my personal experience. As a marketer, I witnessed the replacement of snail mail with email because of its lower cost and higher return on investment.