I’m always amazed watching decathletes perform. In the Olympics and World Championships they compete with astonishing results in ten different disciplines.

But each of the decathletes, for the most part, only truly perform with astonishing results in four or five of these disciplines.. The highest points total determines the winner. Often the winner’s success in several of the individual disciplines is lower than that of other competitors. Over the years there has been world records set by decathletes who did not go on to win the competition.

Let’s focus on results from the London Olympics 2012. The Decathlon winner was Asthon Eaton, despite not winning any individual events. If you add all the individual discipline’s winning scores you will fine that Eaton’s overall points were 2832 points below the combined total.

Discipline Men’s Decathlon winning result by Asthon Eaton in the London Olympics 2012 Differ Men’s Individual winning result in the London Olympics 2012 Men’s Individual winner
100 metres 10.35 7% 9.63 Usain Bolt
Long jump 8.03 3% 8.31 Greg Rutherford
Shot put 14.66 33% 21.89 Tomasz Majewski
High jump 2.05 14% 2.38 Ivan Ukhov
400 metres 46.90 7% 43.94 Kirani James
110 metres hurdles 13.56 5% 12.92 Aries Merritt
Discus throw 42.53 38% 68.27 Robert Harting
Pole vault 5.20 13% 5.97 Renaud Lavillenie
Javelin throw 61.96 27% 84.58 Keshorn Walcott
1,500 metres 4.33.59 30% 3.34.08 Taoufik Makhloufi
Points 8,869 25% 11,701

Source: IAAF

The Decathlon is a competition to find the most all-round athlete. The winner is generally the decathlete who is strongest in five to six of the contested disciplines. You have to be really good (fast and explosive) in those to align with, or more preferably surpass your competitors. In these core events, successful decathletes are often not that far from the individual top athletes. Though in the remaining disciplines their scores can be miles off the top. Why? Because the remaining disciplines have less in common with those they perform best.

They either have to be sustainable or very strong in specific techniques. If an athlete is particularly skilled in one of those more specific disciplines – let’s use discus throw as our example – they most probably fall short in another of the disciplines.

Eaton was close to 40% less successful in the discus throw as his individual medal-winning counterpart, because he lacked the specified skills to throw discus greater distances. The discus throw requires a different training schedule and conditioning programme than those of Eaton’s more successful events. His best results came in the disciplines that required great running.

If we apply the lessons of the Decathlon to IT it helps us to understand the balance of strengths to discipline specific requirements. Consider the following: is infrastructure or email operations really your core business discipline? Should you stay focused and defend your infrastructure’s winning expertise, or should you even be trying email operations if infrastructure is you core discipline?

I Swear
During my lifetime no one may total 11,701 points in Decathlon. I am not sure someone will even break 10,000 points. There is the possibly, but perhaps we haven’t seen this decathlete perform yet.

Similarly your business is unlikely to reach 11,701, or even Eaton’s 8,869. Without frequents reviews and tough questioning of your business model you are likely to spend a lot of your resources without ever reaching that level; especially on your own.

But what if we could change the rules of the Decathlon? What if we were allowed to outsource some the events or maybe even the whole Decathlon to someone else?

If the Decathlon was your business, would you? It is possible to outsource our businesses. Maybe like Eaton your business is not great at rowing discus. At the London Olympics 2012 Robert Harting was the clear discus winner. If you could would you outsource the discus discipline to him?

Robert Harting has the ability, the potential, to accelerate your services by 38%. That was his winning margin. Business does not operate with the same, single competitor requirements the Decathlon has. While you certainly have laws and regulations to comply to, there are no actual game rules to follow. To outsource discipline expertise is neither cheating nor breaking the rules. It could just be good business.

If you want to compete, not only winning but surpass your rivals, then you have to decide what is your focus discipline, and what is not. Your customers expect you to bring innovation, best value, and bang for their buck – not mediocre results across the board.

Prepare well
Review training program (business model) – what’s core, what’s not. Any reason to switch, add or remove focus?

  • Know the rules. Know customer triggers and expectations.
  • Is bread-and-butter core? If yes: Excel! If no: Cloud!
  • Find burdens – get rid of them
  • Find time and/or money consuming darlings. And even if not consuming; why should you offer something thats not your core because you can?! No, you shouldn’t because it’s not – core!
    Adopt partnership/joint venture thinking. Though I’m not saying you actually should partner.
  • Adopt cloud services adoption and hybrid environments thinking. Though I’m not saying you actually should adopt cloud services.
  • Adopt outsourcing thinking. Though I’m not saying you actually should outsource.
  • Adopt meaningful thinking. Saying you should provide meaningful IT services.

Yes I can…

  • Replace my on-premises Exchange server with Office 365. It will give me time to focus on core business and at the same time bring extended value to my customers.
  • Partner with someone to either become a VAR and/or add VAR to my offer. Or maybe our joint offer can become a bestseller.
  • Outsource infrastructure services to concentrate on the database layer where I’m the shining star.
  • Co-locate my data centre. I don’t need to own my “data centre”. Especially since I run my equipment in the most doubtful space, and therefore don’t need to worry my customers finds out or audit.
  • Partner with someone to build an app to my service, since I don’t want to hire an app developer, and especially since it’s not my core.
  • Adopt a hybrid approach to cloud computing. I don’t have to be radical. I can use sequenced transformation to either private or public clouds. And they can collaborate with my on-premises legacy systems since I can use management systems for that.
  • Offer way higher SLA’s, better continuity, faster and more effective service development etc. if I think of cloud computing services as business accelerators instead of argue some odd reason to not. I don’t need to make it more complicated than it actually is.
  • Increase customer experience if I spend time listening, partnering and collaborating with my customer instead of training disciplines they never will gain from. I’m building trust and don’t risk losing them.
  • Use a ‘via’ instead of ‘by’ approach.
  • Consult a professional advisor of what to move, how to and when..
  • Change mind-set. I don’t have to be the decathlete, because I don’t need that to become successful!

It might be difficult to let go of some of those disciplines your business does not demonstrate winning expertise but in doing so you could become a much stronger competitor. By becoming more aware of your core skills and aligning to them to well reviewed, often questioned, strengths alongside an updated training program you might just excel.

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