Pivot Continuously While Avoiding Hard Pivots or No Pivots At All
Two software businesses once known as leading examples of the NoSQL tech theme made the news over the last couple of weeks — MapR & NewRelic. HPE announced they had purchased the intellectual assets of MapR on August 5th. The treasure enticing HPE? “…artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) and analytics data management”. Noticeably not enticing HPE? Anything about NoSQL.
While the catalyst driving news about NewRelic didn’t stem from someone buying the company for parts like HPE buying MapR, the catalyst still amounts to something really dismal– a plunge of 29% in the company’s market cap in the wake of a poor quarter of business activity.
Like MapR, NewRelic no longer cloaks itself in the NoSQL mantle. NewRelic is now just a plain, humdrum “…software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that focuses on application-performance management”.
Data lakes may have taken off for enterprise business, but the notion of chucking out relational database management systems (RDBMS. Think Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP, etc) for non-columnar approaches to structuring (dare I use the word when talking about NoSQL?) data has not. Quite the opposite is the case, with more and more applications for good old SQL popping up all the time.
Both companies looked for the exits from NoSQL via what I call “hard pivots”. Rather than presenting their markets with the notion of brands in the process of evolving, they attempted to abruptly repackage themselves. Based upon present day business realities for both companies, it’s fair to say they both failed.
There is a better way – continuous pivot. I recently listened to an audio presentation of Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator’s Dilemma by Charles A. O’Reilly and Michael L. Tushman. O’Reilly and Tushman present their notion of a successful CEO as a leader demonstrating “ambidexterity”, simultaneously managing stock in trade revenue generation and efforts to disrupt. Had the CEOs of MapR & NewRelic implemented O’Reilly and Tushman’s approach the fate of their businesses would be very different.
Back at the top of this article I referred to NoSQL as a tech theme. Sadly, NoSQL never achieved status as a real market for enterprise business/large organization customers. For businesses operating in tech themes it is especially important to implement O’Reilly and Tushman’s approach. The ground is literally shifting day by day in their world, so grasping onto a theme as something solid may actually end up being a kiss of death.