Henriette, the business analyst in a mid-sized company, was working on some process diagrams when her manager, Jakob, came to her desk. “We”—he was usually speaking on behalf of the executives when he started out with that word—”need you to get started on this year’s industry and market research. Revenue is lower than expected, and the execs are concerned. Project and budget proposals are due at the end of next month, earlier than usual, so we need to get a jump on that.” Henriette assured him she would have the information back to him within two weeks.
This was an annual exercise: compare their company’s products against their competitors’ and what was considered standard technology in their industry. Her findings helped company executives determine what developments they should invest in over the coming years to stay competitive and even become a leader in the market.
But this time, Henriette became uncomfortable with what she found. The industry and market had fast outpaced her company over the last few months, and they were losing market share. They were falling behind in their innovation. Something needed to change soon, or they would likely lose too much of their revenue to stay in business.
The analyst presented her findings to Jakob, and he invited her to the meeting where he reviewed them with the executives. They decided where they would place priorities over the next year, with a focus on new, experimental features in one of their well known products.
The next step for Henriette was a gap analysis, comparing the current state of the product with the desired state to identify what about the product needed to change. She spoke with designers and engineers to understand what the changes would take.
What Henriette learned started causing her to lose sleep. To support the new features, the product would need to be switched over to different technology, after which the engineers could build the new features—but at the current rate of falling revenue, the company would fold before the project was complete. Hiring additional programmers would take them to insolvency that much faster.
Further, to avoid winding up in the same predicament within that time, Henriette recognized they needed to have a new team keeping an eye on the market and on industry standards. An annual review was no longer enough. But of course, that was another expense.
The gap between the current and future states yawned so wide as to be a chasm. “Can’t get there from here,” the analyst murmured, feeling discouraged and hopeless—like the company was doomed and she should start looking for another job.
She looked at the problem from every angle she and others could think of but produced nothing workable. When she and Jakob next met with the executives, her conclusions predictably caused chaos in the conference room.
Following an energetic debate, the executives could agree on two things: they couldn’t keep the company afloat on their own, and they needed more capital, and quickly. Otherwise, the company had no future.
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