It’s not often that there is a genuine ‘green field’ opportunity, a real chance to start from scratch without the handicap of legacy, both in systems and working practices. Oddly enough it’s happened for me several times recently and the circumstances could be more common than you would expect. In the global market more and more enterprises are moving into ‘new’, or ‘emergent’, markets for their products or services, and establishing your local operations in these countries is essentially a ‘green field’ opportunity, or at least it could be. In the last two months this has meant companies establishing major operations inChinaandSaudi Arabiathrough to setting up small operations across Asia in markets likeVietnam.

The CEO of a building products company made the big point with the simple statement: ‘Why would I continue to design my business model around the limitations and expenses of a 1970s mainframe model?’ He went on to say he could not afford the time (yes, that was his first point), or the cost, to set up his current IT support structure in these new markets, and surely it is possible now to approach this in a different way with ‘as a service’ technologies?

We have all complained about the limitations that many years of building our IT systems with the technologies and processes that were the best at the time, and how we are trapped by the results. And we have also tried to make sense of how to make a business case to upgrade and replace with newer technologies, and frankly it’s difficult, even risky in some cases to achieve. But here is a real chance to design and deploy, in relatively low-risk, small-scale markets, and test the results, but it does mean setting out to challenge the automatic reaction, which is to deploy the ‘standard’ IT systems.

Working out what and how to do this starts with designing the business model that will be supported with the business from the market side back into the enterprise operations and administration, rather than using the traditional ERP and mainframe approach which is to work from the limitations of the computing systems and their transactional capabilities towards the edge of the business. Doing this with a clean sheet of paper around the best ways to compete for and win business, deliver and service customers, can be a real insight. In fact, it might just form the basis for a new working relationship with the business in the existing companies towards new goals in what ‘good’ should look like, and establish new benchmarks for improvements and upgrading.

New people, new ideas, new working patterns combined with freedom to use new technologies to enable is the ‘let’s think out of the box’ and ‘let’s be innovative’ moment that many of us are striving to introduce into our enterprises. So if you are in an enterprise making moves into new countries don’t waste the opportunity!! And no, I am not going to offer a prescriptive approach on how to do this and what ‘good’ would look like because that would be returning to the old IT approach where technology capabilities have been the limiting factors on the businesses capabilities to redesign their business model to be much more flexible and effective.

However, if you want to get the creative thinking started here are some recent articles on how new technologies have changed traditional markets and approaches:

Starting with an article on the technology market and some familiar players published by Fast Company’s Website that I really recommend for its analysis and thought-provoking content on how Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are engaged in a competitive battle to create new global market positioning around getting their technology to be ubiquitous.  Equally thought-provoking but based on a very simple theme is 50 things that we don’t do anymore because technology has either changed the mark, the way we decide, or actually do things. Finally, the latest thinking of author Don Tapscott can be found at Forbes online in an interview about whether traditional build-to-sell industrialization/standardization is coming to the end of its competitive age.