It’s an exciting time for technology market theorist and “Crossing the Chasm” author Geoffrey Moore, having just released his latest book, “Zone to Win.” In it, Moore provides a playbook for guiding large enterprise business growth and adding new product lines to the portfolio. It’s built on the concept of four zones, which provide companies with a simple way of thinking about where to allocate business resources: The Performance Zone (product concerns for the next year); The Productivity Zone (the internal workings of the company like marketing and HR that support the Performance Zone); The Incubation Zone (R&D activities that can provide returns in the next 3-5 years); and The Transformation Zone (when a company takes an incubated product to market that can provide returns in the next 2-3 years).
Moore is coincidentally also the keynote speaker for QuickBase’s EMPOWER 2016 conference. With the event right around the corner, we took a few minutes to catch up with Moore on his book and how he sees it tying into citizen development. Below is a condensed version of our conversation.
In the book, you describe “Zone to Win” as a vocabulary. Can you talk about what drove you to build out a vocabulary, and more than that, write a whole book about it?
Whenever companies stumble at a particular crossroads, it is a sign that conventional wisdom is not working. What they need is a fresh view of the problem. That, in my line of work, leads to a new framework and vocabulary to describe the familiar problem in a new and more productive way. My first foray into this was “Crossing the Chasm,” where the goal was to help start-ups better understand the transition from early adopters to mainstream market customers. “Zone to Win” is in the same tradition. In this case, it is established enterprises. Despite a solid book of business, they struggle to incorporate disruptive innovations into their existing business model, operating model and/or infrastructure model.
The book primarily focuses on larger enterprises, but QuickBase also has customers in the small and mid-sized business category. Can small or mid-sized businesses (or departments within larger enterprises) also take something away from your system?
You bet. It is not so much the size of a business that matters. Rather, it is whether it has an existing book of business to uphold. Start-ups do not have such a thing, and for them “Zone to Win” is too early. But once your business reaches a material size, once you have a loyal customer base, recurrent sales, and an ecosystem of partners working with you to serve your customers, you have a real asset—something to invest in, something to keep going. The challenge now is, how much of your investable working capital—payroll, capital expense budget, etc. —you should put into making this current business better versus putting it into some new, and unproven entity. Now you have a zone management problem.
The purpose of zoning is to put this problem in high relief. Each zone has a very different commitment to fulfill—sustained revenue and profit growth in the current businesses (the Performance Zone), effective programs and efficient systems to support that growth (the Productivity Zone), next-generation business opportunities based on disruptive innovations (the Incubation Zone), and successfully onboarding a net new line of business whether through incubation or M&A (the Transformation Zone). These zones have conflicting interests that must be managed explicitly under the direct supervision of the CEO.
We hear a lot of QuickBase citizen developers talking about frictionless application prototyping. They quickly put thought into action, and build an application that solves a process or business challenge without having to go through IT. How do the concepts in your book dovetail into the rapid prototyping phenomenon we are seeing?
If you want citizen development to be a game-changer, one that gives your organization competitive advantage, then you are likely going to want to deploy it on your front lines in the Performance Zone. But you will need to experiment with it before you go live, and for that the Incubation Zone is key. Here you can “prototype, iterate, fast fail,” and be agile, all with a view toward finding the best angle of attack to take to scale.
How can senior leaders in the C-Suite help drive major transformational initiatives like citizen development across the organization?
When you take any disruptive innovation to scale, you have to break a lot of glass and move a lot of cheese. If you try to manage such things within the framework of business as usual, you are doomed to fail. So the key thing for senior leaders to do in this case is to back one—and only one—disruption at a time, and to see it all the way past the tipping point, before they let things get back to business as usual and before they entertain introducing another disruption. Making adoption of the disruption the number one priority until they pass the tipping point is the key principle for success.
You'll be keynoting at the QuickBase EMPOWER 2016 conference in May. Any sneak previews on what we can expect to hear from you?
I plan to talk through the zone management frameworks in a quick and ready way so that attendees can get a feel for whether this would be good vocabulary for them to adopt. There is an enormous amount of digital disruption under way these days, and I think everyone needs to find a framework that will work for them to find their way forward.
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