Timing is everything in business, and it should inform every decision you make as a business leader.
There are four important questions you should always ask yourself prior to moving forward with any new business initiative: Is now the best possible time to proceed? How does this decision align with our priorities and vision? What resources will we need to divert to ensure the initiative’s success? What are the foreseeable effects and how do we respond to them?
Last year, Okta decided to make a considerable investment in a European data centre, which had been an ask from our EMEA sales team ever since we first opened our London office in 2014. Their primary reasoning was the , which make it every organisation’s legal responsibility to protect the information it handles and stores on behalf of its customers. Compliance with the new regulation is more straightforward if that data is stored within the EU. My co-founder Todd McKinnon and I knew we would eventually make the investment, but we decided to wait until the time was right. Following these three rules will ensure you know when that is for any major business decision.
1) Base your decision on logic, not emotion
We revealed our new European data centre just one month prior to the European Court of Justice’s ruling to nullify Safe Harbour. We knew there was a chance Safe Harbour would be invalidated, but more importantly, many of our European customers were looking for a local data centre in which to store their data, making the investment all the more worthwhile for us.
It was no longer just our sales team pushing for the data centre. We now had customers who needed it as well. Once we saw it would be advantageous for our customers and the European legislation was changing, we knew the time was right to make the logical, not emotional decision to invest in the data centre.
2) Utilise your resources
Once you have decided the timing for your venture is right for your business, it is time to consider how to best utilise your resources, most notably, your people. Our decision led us to invest in two European data centres — the primary in Germany, and the failover in Ireland — to meet the needs of our most security- and privacy-conscious customers and prospects. This meant reallocating engineering resources so that we could focus on our European infrastructure. This didn’t make everyone happy. Some of our project managers felt that by diverting resources to the new data centres, we might fall behind on other projects.
However, difficult business decisions often result in losing ground in some areas in order to gain it in others. As a business leader you must be prepared to revisit short-term priorities and reallocate resources even when there is hesitance from managers and employees. Provided your decisions coincide with your long-term vision, briefly losing ground in one area provides your organisation with the opportunity to thrive elsewhere.
3) Be prepared for second-order effects
In addition to reshuffling your resources and primary teams, you will also need to be prepared for second-order ramifications. Building our EU data centre would mostly affect our customer success team, which works with our customers every step of the way, helping them deploy, adopt and optimise their use of Okta. So, we worked with them to learn how the new data centre would impact our customers, and helped them communicate these changes. We also scheduled meetings across departments and discussed how the changes would affect other teams in both the short and long-term. The heads of department then relayed this information to their teams, ensuring our customers wouldn’t suffer at the hands of upcoming changes.
It goes without saying that any business decision you make as a leader will have ripple effects on your employees. This is especially true when making tough decisions. Knowing when the time is right to reallocate your resources falls on the shoulders of every business leader.
By Frederic Kerrest, COO & co-founder at Okta