Congratulations! - you have found some fantastic business apps to help you run your business more effectively, efficiently and profitably. You evaluated and found the ecommerce shopping cart you wanted, the best accounting system for your business, an email marketing app for your marketing team and have found a great third-party logistics warehouse to ensure your order fulfillment is handled by people who understand and respect your business.
You and your team have put in (and keep putting in) a great effort to find these apps, set them up the way you want them and get them working for you -- they are virtual members of your team and you couldn't run your business without them. But are your business apps working together as a team as well as they could?
Teams in one shape or another -- including virtual teams made up of the business apps you depend on -- are fundamental to our success and happiness in so many aspects of our lives — at work, at play, at home — and every one of these teams, and the very concept of team, shares the same goal: to succeed at something or do something well together.
What makes some teams phenomenally successful and many others only marginally so? And how can you make your team of business apps phenomenally successful for your business?
I think that depends on whether you are focused on optimizing the individual performance your business apps versus their performance as a team.
A Culture of individual contribution
The typical business focuses on individual performance and contribution: the value of your individual business apps are measured in relative isolation to the overall business performance. If you are running your business this way, you are asking your bookkeeper, "How has our change to using cloud based accounting system "x" improved your efficiency, the accuracy of our tax reporting, our ability to track cost of goods sold, etc." At the same time, you are asking your sales manager how your new CRM system is helping her do her job better.
This "culture of individual contribution" assumes that if apps are individually successful for your business, your business apps as a whole will be successful. Looking at things from this perspective -- and assuming the individual contributions made by your business apps add variably to the success of your business -- the following would be realistic expectation of the apps running your business:
If 5 is an optimal contribution, then the “realistic” team in a culture of individual contribution performs at about 75% of its optimal potential. As the potential of this team is very limited, the return on investment of improving the individual contribution to success of any single app is relatively small and, for the individuals responsible for these apps in your business, heavily dis-incentivized (more on that later).
A culture of altruistic contribution
So, what is the alternative? I like to call it the "culture of altruistic contribution" — this more closely typifies the culture of smaller, more agile companies -- maybe even yours?
A business with a culture of altruistic contribution focuses on the success of the business as a whole and assumes that a all of its business apps and the people charged with running them are focused on the same, shared goal. Again, realistically not everyone -- or every app -- delivers equally, so the individual contributions multiply variably the success of your team of apps and the following would be a realistic expectation:
So, again assuming 5 is optimal contribution of any one app in your toolbox, the “realistic” team in a culture of altruistic contribution performs at only 35% of its optimal potential. There is huge unrealized potential and the return on investment of improving any individual app is substantial and heavily incentivized (more on that now).
The differences of ROI and incentives for teamwork in the two distinct cultures
If you operate in a culture of individual performance and believe that the contribution of a great new app you have purchased adds to success and you choose to sacrifice the performance of a well performing app to focus resources and energy on improving an underperforming app…
…it doesn’t change how successful you're apps as a group are, it just makes it look like one app didn’t perform as well and another app did better.
By contrast, in a cutulre of altruistic contribution, if you believe that the contribution of one of your apps multiplies the success of your business and you choose to sacrifice resources on a well performing app to focus energy on improving an underperforming app…
. . . it increases your success
What if one of the apps the business depends on completely fails?
In a culture of individual contribution where each contribution adds to success, there is an assumption that an individual app can completely and utterly fail and the business can still succeed:
Realtiy, however, is much more aligned with a culture of altruistic contribution where a complete and utter failure in any individual app on which your business depends is a complete and utter failure of the business as a whole:
Which culture is more realistic to how things actually work and what kind of team of apps do you want?
A culture of altruistic contribution encourages a “Performance Ecosystem” to deliver a successful business. When you look at how your individual apps are improving your business, you may be getting a good view as to the individual contribution of each of these systems, but you might not be asking the more important question: "How are these two new systems and our three existing systems working together to improve our business performance?"