The process of people, technology and teams.

By Steve Grundlingh, 15 November 2020

I liked this article, “Works of Brilliance Come From Great Processes, Not Great Ideas”, posted on Medium by Forge.


Anyone who reads it will be able to take in the prescribed narrative as well as extract personal insights perhaps not part of the focal message.


Personally, I was drawn to this paragraph in particular:


“It’s no trivial feat to build and maintain a work environment where people with different skills can perform together in harmony, communicate openly with one another, improve upon each other’s ideas, prevent problems before they occur, and learn the right lessons from past projects. Pixar’s real achievement lies in creating and nurturing an ecosystem that supports the creative processes that are essential to an idea’s success.”


It reminded me of the “DeARX Engine” defined in this simple graphic:

DeARX customer diagram

When people ask that clichéd question “what is your unique selling proposition (USP)”, or “what differentiates you”? I always come back to this model which starts with the DeARX engine.


On many occasions, usually when submitting a company profile to a large corporate as part of an on-boarding pack or an introductory presentation to a prospective client, I find myself questioning the simplicity of this model. It looks so basic and easily repeatable that it does not scream “USP” at all.


The reality however, is very different:

  • Amazing people – when recruiting for new members of the team, we, in theory, have the same chance of attracting the best candidate as anybody else. Okay, the world was never equal and despite the attempts of many, is not likely to be anytime soon. That means that some hold advantages over us and we hold advantages over others. The point is, ensuring we secure amazing people who will drive the DeARX engine is not some CV sifting, box ticking, accelerated event run by HR. It is a well-honed process built by the current team members who all play a part. We don’t hit the jackpot every time and in truth there is no jackpot to hit, but the better we run this process the better our DeARX engine.
  • Awesome technology – have a look at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s Cloud Native Interactive Landscape (CNIL). Try these stats on for size (numbers quoted at time of writing):
    • 1,497 applications
    • $19.46T combined market capitalisation
    • $65.37B of total funding

Who hasn’t met an IT guy or girl who is punting MySQL over PostgreSQL or Git over Jenkins, or Linkerd over Istio? Note this list is limited only to the cloud native world, there is a lot more out there to consider and businesses (and IT companies) can get tangled and confused without even trying! If we employ 3 people it is likely we will get 3 different permutations over the optimum tech stack we should align to as a business and thereby promote to solving the IT challenges of our customers.

  • Great teams – I’m a South African who grew up supporting rugby, from school to province and always ultimately the famed Springboks. I was there in 1995 with Mandela and Pienaar, watched on TV in 2007 as Smit and White lit up Paris, and shared the most emotional of all victories at home with my family in 2019 when Kolisi and Erasmus obliterated the English in the Land of the Rising Sun. Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe drove nails into an English coffin filled by players and pundits who only a week earlier were lauding the achievements of their world beating Roses.

    In 2016 the Springboks won 4 of 16 matches, including a 57-15 hammering by the All Blacks and losses to Ireland, Argentina, Australia, England, Wales and even Italy! How then did a mostly unchanged group of people transform from world losers to world champions? The stuff of teams, like that of Pixar is no trivial feat.


So perhaps after all, the DeARX engine is a USP, so long as we continue to follow the process, communicate openly, learn from our mistakes, improve with each project and nurture an ecosystem of creativity.

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