Success, especially in businesses has traditionally been attributed to well-planned action. A well-thought plan and its implementation is then documented in full detail, with the intent of replicating the same model for begetting the same results. Digital, on the other hand, is a concept synonymous with innovation and change. In the digital world, technology advances with every passing moment. Naturally, dynamism of such an extreme nature can never be complemented by the conventional.
In the recent years, its not just the pace of technological innovation, that has gone from linear to parabolic but decision making in every field, be it economic, social, political or entrepreneurial, has been forced to adopt the same approach. In such a scenario, businesses too need a complete reversal of the rules of the game.
Businesses need to keep up with every development and hence can’t afford to waste time planning for action and documentation. Instant action is the need of the hour, especially for tech-driven products & services. Take for example, the incident of “Demonitisation”. On 8th November, 2016, Honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, declared 86% of the Indian cash was no longer legal tender. The nation faced an unprecedented cash crunch. A digital wallet company, later followed by its peers, took the bull by the horn and launched an ad campaign the very next day, less than a few hours into the declaration. Had they waited for planning a course of action first, they would have lost precious time and more importantly a huge volume of business.
To attain success, now businesses need to rely more on innovation, and innovation of any kind involves a certain amount of risk. No scale of planning can actually eliminate that risk. Then why should one put too much effort into planning? Moreover, sometimes, planning is not even possible, as you may not know how to achieve something anymore.
Business projects today, resemble an expedition more than a traditional engineering project. In an expedition, you can never anticipate what’s about to unfold next, rather, all you can do is be prepared for the unpredictable, keep your resources ready and improvise your moves to best combat the situation. Earlier people had the time to perfect a plan and act accordingly. It was possible, since the environment was stable and nothing major would change in the given time-span. In the digital era, however, something new happens with every passing minute.
Target customers and marketplace evolve constantly and so your products/services should immediately reflect feedback from those constant changes. Thus businesses can no longer wait to perfect a product/service; instead they need to take instant decisions with real time planning. By doing so, planning time is actually better utilized by acting and hence learning more about how to succeed.
Under the circumstances, what has surfaced as a better approach, is taking risks at a smaller scale. Since you cannot eliminate the risk of failing, its considered better to fail fast and fail early, thereby minimizing the business’ risk of failing big and failing publicly. Globally, innovation-driven corporations like Google, Proctor & Gamble see failure as an essential part of their evolution and as businesses, they have an expectation of 50-80% failure rate on new product development and encourage more ideation.
While “Act now, plan later” has emerged as the best way to tackle the dynamic digital age, it has also made documentation redundant. The ever-changing nature of the digital world hardly ever repeats itself. In such a case, documenting the process doesn’t make sense because the circumstances are unique every time. Hence, the lengthy and costly process of documentation is no longer relevant.
Furthermore, there are instances where large systems have persisted without any documentation. For example, the constitution of UK was never written. Even Rig Veda, the oldest and most important of the vedas remained unwritten for over ten generations. Yet none of them have been lost. Similarly, in the current times where re-traceable digital footprints accompany every action, the need for documentation becomes completely irrelevant.
The digital world is a world of here and now. It’s the era of Lean Startups. In this world success is achieved by grabbing every opportunity at the earliest and the need for perfection has been replaced by a business’ ability to evolve.
(The author is Chief Marketing Officer at Angel One and the article has appeared in Business Standard on 11th May 2017)