Speaker Snapshot: 'Creating & Implementing Innovative Strategy'

We spoke to Jacques Markgraaff, GM Strategy, Planning & Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil


In the lead up to his presentation 'Strategy in Uncertainty – why ‘traditional strategy’ isn’t enough' at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit, we spoke to Jacques Markgraaff, GM of Strategy, Planning & Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA).

Jacques is an accomplished and highly versatile business leader with extensive experience in Strategy, Transformation, Innovation, Sales and Business Development across multiple industries with a focus on CPG, Retail and Financial Services. He is an influential professional with a successful track record in managing large and complex teams to drive a balance of strategic, commercial and customer results. In his role as General Manager, Strategy, Planning and Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil, he is accountable for leading the development of the strategic growth agenda and translating strategies into executable business plans for the $2bn Australian Beverage division.

What are the main components of a successful business strategy?

I don’t believe there are any sure-fire components given the degree of uncertainty in business today but rather tests or hallmarks that I’ve learnt are crucial to any sound strategy:

  • Executive management must have a clear understanding of the case for change facing the business – context matters!
  • Know what the business’s inherent capabilities, privileged assets, proprietary insights etc. are, how relevant these are likely to remain and how these can be further built upon to exploit your competitive advantage.
  • Know your customers better than anyone.
  • Have a deep enough understanding of your business economics and how this may evolve over time.
  • Learn from and anticipate your existing (and emerging) competitors.
  • Gauge and set the ambition of the business – are we talking incremental growth/shareholder value or ‘step change’/reinvention?
  • Describe the strategy in terms of clear and measurable operational outcomes.
  • Needs to be executable by the business – is the business aligned with the strategy, does the executive have a winning mindset and are there the requisite capabilities around to pull it off?

In what ways do you think the role of a strategist is going to evolve/transform in the coming years?

  • My prediction is that the role of a strategist will become increasingly important as businesses try to make sense of growing levels of uncertainty and disruption.
  • Automation and AI will undoubtedly impact a number of traditional strategy areas such as planning & forecasting; trend analysis etc. 
  • Augmenting the strategy capability with these tools will lead to increasing levels of sophistication in modelling and more accurate predictions on the likely future and resulting economics of strategic options. This will be an exciting development.
  • There will, therefore, be a need for strategy professionals to ‘move up the value chain’ and offer a broader level of disciplines and competencies including Strategy Alignment, The psychology of building a winning mindset, while developing new capabilities such as AI training etc.

What do you think is the most common mistake strategists are making when it comes to dealing with new technology/innovation?

  • Either under or overconfidence in assessing the likely impact.
  • Not taking senior executives along the journey.
  • Riding the wave of sensationalism and hype to gain influence.
  • Believing everything a vendor tells you and being led to believe you can’t do it without their very expensive help.
  • Not translating the technology into ‘real world’ problems and allowing the conversation become about ‘the solution’ rather than the problem.

What are some big changes you feel need to be made to the corporate mentality in order to make them more effective at embracing innovation?

  • Very challenging to change a big company mindset into more of a startup mentality – some would say it's not possible in the confines of the existing business model, culture, people, processes etc.
  • First and foremost, the company needs to eradicate a risk-averse culture to foster a ‘learning’ environment built upon prototyping, agile methodology, trialling etc.
  • The business needs to have the customer flow through every vein of the company. Far too often innovation happens in the comfortable confines of HQ. Get out into the trade and speak to real customers to test ‘desirability’.
  • Cultivating a culture that is more autonomous and less command and control – i.e. take the initiative and don’t wait to be told or for permission.
  • Align the innovation with the business strategy and across the value chain.
  • Although not everyone is necessarily an intrapreneur, innovation should be everyone's business – not some fancy lab or innovation hub which seldom deliver.
  • Make sure you have the requisite sponsorship and support – otherwise you may be asking for forgiveness rather than permission which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on your culture.
  • Watch out for budget cuts and incumbent thinking – it kills creativity and initiative.
  • Corporates need to find ways to incentivize intrapreneurs within their business.
  • Generic innovation seldom works – set a specific challenge to the business or define the problem/opportunity you’re looking to innovate against.
  • Avoid unnecessary bureaucratic processes wherever you can as they will cause any business case to die before its even begun or for the teams to lose energy and hope.
  • Once an idea looks to have merit, make sure resources are committed – not a ‘side-of-desk’ project.

To hear more from Jacques Markgraaff, join him on the 15-16 March in Melbourne for the Chief Strategy Officer Summit.

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