How fast-growth companies are most likely to fall Part 3
Into the trap of not seeking help – and how they can take the time to be more than OK
We previously talked about the IT and sourcing teams’ reluctance to admit problems or fix them when they know there is an issue – whether cost, risk, or performance. Now we want to talk about the situations that are most likely to cause this issue.
It’s ironic that the biggest problems are caused by success. As growth explodes it’s easier to let things slide, apply tactical fixes, and to not admit to real problems, or a need to improve processes, save money or both. Why stir up new issues by turning over that rock when you can barely keep up as it is? Why do better when you’re already a rock star? But there’s a difference between a rock star and a one-hit wonder – and that difference is continuous improvement.
So many of my current and former clients and are busy scaling.
They include not just startups but the most powerful firms in the world: Microsoft, Hearst, Sony, Blizzard, Riot, eBay, Intel, Verizon, and many others. Growth is great. But it also makes it harder to allocate IT resources among many moving and uncertain targets. When you grow, sometimes a key project gets zapped for headcount because the budget is needed for other pressing priorities. And as often as not, the first thing to get sacrificed are the projects with the best long-term returns but no short-term or visible results. Because hey, in the long run, we’ll all be dead (or at least at another job) and in the meantime, there’s a fire to put out today.
But why do these fires happen in the first place? Why do the biggest and best have outages, failure to scale, deployment delays, cost overruns, miserable users and dozens of other problems? Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes it’s about failing to get the right amount or type of IT capacity in place. Sometimes it’s about not paying enough attention to fixes for small problems and bottlenecks. Sometimes, the problem is just the opposite, spending willy-nilly on tactical projects for everyone who asks without evaluating strategic needs and finding common platforms. And as IT plays whack-a-mole with daily crises, long-term issues grow in the background, creating problems that the enterprise can’t even get its arms around, much less fix.
Consider the explosive debut of Pokemon Go, already the most successful mobile game in history a few short weeks after its launch. But that growth clearly outstripped the preparations by creators Niantic (a spinoff of Google, which remains an investor and provider of backbone services), the Pokemon Company and Nintendo. Repeatedly, ardent fans ran into screens that read “Our servers are experiencing issues. Please come back later.” As Wired pointed out in a recent story, users aren’t the only losers in this scenario. Every time the game’s servers choke; Nintendo and Niantic lose a chance to sell more in-app goodies to eager players. One problem may have been what was reportedly a too-small beta, which didn’t stress-test the system for anything like its actual outlandish success.
It’s a testament to the game’s insanely compelling nature that it still became such a hit. It’s a little like what happened the first time the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was streamed online years ago. People joked that it nearly broke the Internet, as hundreds of thousands of would-be viewers overwhelmed the site. The result created a media sensation but also a lot of unsatisfied would-be viewers. Victoria’s Secret’s tech leadership had simply failed to put in place enough resources to manage success.
When you’re Pokemon or Victoria’s Secret, you can still be a rockstar even in the face of failure. But what if it happens for a second-tier game that suddenly loses half of its audience due to glitches? What if there’s only one shot at glory and you flop?
IT Resources Whether you’re catapulted into success or still trying to get your big break.
It’s important to get advice from someone who’s been there for both the explosive growth and the stabilization that followed. We’ve worked with some of the biggest and most successful companies in tech, media, finance and beyond. We’ve worked with them to get new servers and bandwidth online in weeks. We’ve worked with them to cut surplus capacity and fix underperforming supplier relationships when they plateaued. And this helped them get the second wind and find new successes down the road.
The reason someone is successful – not just lucky with a one hit wonder – is understanding the value of targeted outside assistance. The companies and leaders that reinvent their success are not too proud, or scared, to get the support they need, even in areas where they may not fully realize they need it. In fact, they realize it makes them better and more effective.