Control More than Half the Board

This principle is one of 200 from The Tao of Chess by Peter Kurzdorfer. I realized while reading it, that these principles also applied to my approach to digital strategy and analytics. Since these are the things I am most often thinking about, I thought I’d share them here. If you’d like to learn Kurzdorfer’s take on chess and life, you’ll have to read his book.

Principle 1: If you control more than half of the squares on the board, you have an advantage.

Business is competition, and without question digital is a big part of doing business today, but I’m looking at this first principle from an internal perspective. In the enterprise there are many different departments involved in any given system or process and to be both effective and efficient, you must have your systems (and people) working with one another.

The board is the playing field. This includes all of the systems you are reliant on to implement your digital strategy whether they are your direct responsibility or not. If you can’t control them, your potential for success is severely limited.

I work in our marketing services department and I’m working with at least our IT group and our internal agency on most every project. I may also be working with product teams, sales operations, sales, HR, finance, and RA/QA. Depending on the project, it could be with 3rd party vendors/agencies as well.

The more departments involved in any given project, the more complex it becomes as it must meet more needs.

The question for me then, becomes who is the owner? Who makes decisions regarding the system, or system selection? If I’m not the owner, how do I ensure the system works as it relates to my needs and requirements.

This is where strategy comes into play. I need to know if there is another strategy in another department at play, or if they are simply trying to solve one problem in isolation.

Recently, we were looking at adopting a new Web CMS. In the beginning only SaaS solutions were being considered, but I was able to get Drupal into the conversation. The more I thought about our needs in the future, the more I felt Drupal was the right solution.

The choice came down to some SaaS solutions and Drupal. The deciding factor turned out to be our IT department indicating that while they could support either option, their approach was to adopt LAMP based software when possible.

At that point I controlled the board, Drupal was selected, and we are now positioned to build upon it with other LAMP software. As more of these pieces come together it will become more difficult to adopt non-LAMP, unless it simply is not possible/practical.

In a constantly changing environment, it is important to know what systems are in place and critical to learn what are being considered. If you wind up with multiple closed systems as opposed to multiple compatible ones, you’ll find it impossible to properly do your job.

So how much of the board do you control now, and how much will you control in 18 months?

Strategy is about long-term, have a plan, know what other’s plans are, and work toward implementing, measuring, reviewing, and revising. In time you’ll get the pieces in the positions you need to control the board and achieve your vision.


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