The cloud is transforming how many of us do business. Chances are, our corporate brands aren’t ready for the change.
Cloud technology is about streamlining organizations, distributing functions, boosting customer focus – and in the process stripping out whole layers of management. Companies like Amazon Web Services are starting to run their organizations as federations of autonomous groups. Individual initiatives are changing too fast in response to real-time customer needs to work effectively under tight top-down supervision and pre-defined processes. Tech providers in Japan are implementing cloud phones, business email, and virtual desktop like AINEO’s Quickerweb.com service. People don’t need the IT department so much any more. With only a few people on staff, they can use the same technology the big firms are using.
So bye-bye, middle managers. Sorry, guys, but we no longer need people to move information around between silos or to manage workloads, logistics and schedules. Cloud-enabled management software and collaboration tools can do these jobs better, faster and cheaper.
But middle managers have another function: traditionally, they are the organization’s strategic enforcers. They transmit the company’s core values and strategic directions to the rest of the organization so that the individual functions don’t fly apart. What happens to strategic cohesion when the middle layer has been burned away?
If only there was some mechanism or system for keeping a lean organization on track.
That’s where the corporate brand comes in. It can go a long way towards filling the strategic gaps left by a stripped-down management structure. But the brand has to be managed in the right way. Here are two key points to keep in mind:
1. The brand must be well-defined
When the brand is well-defined, it expresses what the company stands for and what it does for its customers. As cloud-enabled organizations become increasingly responsive and customer-driven, it becomes crucial to articulate the brand’s customer-oriented purpose in a way that everyone, both internally and externally, can understand.
2. The brand must be well-activated
Activating a brand is the process of setting the brand as the primary link between strategy and customer outcomes. The activated brand is no longer just a symbol – it becomes fully operationalized. That means all company actions, down to the minutia of what each individual employee or team does in the course of everyday business, is explicitly aligned with the customer-oriented brand purpose. Processes are defined, and changed, in line with the brand. Staff performance and outcomes are evaluated in accordance with brand purpose. Metrics are defined in terms of brand delivery.
When the brand is activated and operationalized, it becomes the guiding spirit that drives a diverse array of functions and initiatives all in a common direction. When conditions change, as they do with growing speed in cloud-world, the brand helps teams respond quickly and appropriately without waiting for guidance from a management bureaucracy.
Does it have to be the brand?
A good company already has a strategy and a purpose. Why does it have to be the brand that drives these things? Good question!
Strategies are pretty dull things – certainly strategy statements and strategic planning documents are. Corporate purpose is more likely to be implicit, or else internally-focused, than to be explicitly defined and customer-oriented.
Brands are made to be simple, memorable and easily communicated – viral, if you prefer. And good brands are inherently customer-focused. They just happen to be ideally suited for the function of “strategic glue” in a fast-moving, streamlined, cloud-adapted environment. That’s why brands have evolved the way they have, from a simple symbol of ownership to a carrier of values and character to a results-focused strategic tool.
If the cloud is changing the way you organize and operate your company, it might be time to think also about changing the role of your brand.
Written by Eric Wedemeyer (Profile)