Q4 is here. It’s game time!

By Brian Marr, Chief Strategy Officer

I grew up in Silicon Valley not too far from the original training camp for the San Francisco 49ers (or, as my Seahawks-loving children and most of my colleagues call them, the Forty Whiners). Our house was just a few blocks from the neighborhood rec center, and the Niners practice field was a part of the complex. It’s safe to say it was not even close to the high-end accommodations and security most NFL teams have today. We could ride our bikes over, watch our heroes practice, and catch a high five, an autograph, or even a game of catch when they finished up their workout.

These were the dynasty years in the 1980’s, when the Niners racked up Super Bowl win after win. The players were legendary in our town, and were a big part of the community. You’d see them at the grocery store, local restaurants, and even at their homes when you went trick-or-treating (ok, we asked my mom drive us to the neighborhood most of them lived in because they gave out WHOLE candy bars… but that’s beside the point). The biggest name of all, and easily the nicest guy on the team, was Joe Montana.

Montana was known by fans – and rivals – for how he handled the 4th quarter. I don’t know if he was simply consistent, or if he found a magical second wind when others were exhausted, but time after time I would watch him plan and execute a fourth quarter drive for the win.

Joe’s ability to put the pressure on in the 4th quarter always inspired me, and made me think about how we could all apply that level of planning, drive and determination to what we do. And don’t worry – the rest won’t be a football analogy. Here are what I believe to be the 4 keys to success for a strong Q4 finish:

1) Do a quick retrospective on the year so far.

Now is a great time to review where you are. Retrospectives offer the opportunity to assess what went well and where you need to focus over the next 3 months. Pull your team together and discuss Q1, Q2, and Q3. You can’t do much about changing how they went now, but you can learn from them and put a plan in place to end the year strong.

2) Manage the clock.

Most of us enter Q4 with the best intentions, only to have the cadence of the holidays sweep us up. Have you ever found yourself looking at the calendar in late December, realizing how much still needed to get done? I’ve been there, and I know you have too. Right now is a great time to put that work you’d normally leave until the last moment into motion. You’ll have more of your team present and at their best, and your external partners are much more likely to be able to ramp up with a full team to support you.

3) Test new tech and market trends:

This is the time of year when we have the opportunity to see where the market is going, and begin to make assumptions regarding which technologies we should invest in. It is particularly true for consumer technology products, but with the consumerization of IT, there is a carryover effect on the enterprise.

Later this month, for example, Apple will begin shipping the next version of the Apple TV. After spending some time with the device (courtesy of our friends at Apple!) it became very clear that this product is highly likely to shape our home entertainment experience in a way Sony, Xbox and Nintendo have not been able to achieve. By considering the opportunities this device and other technologies offer now, and creating simple prototypes to test your assumptions with customers, you will end up ahead of your competitors.

4) Plan for starting strong in 2016:

Although this post is about keeping Q4 steady and strong, you should really consider how your work will impact the business next year. Do you have budget you should invest now to get the jump on Q1? Are their updates you should make to existing digital products, websites or applications now to improve customer experience during the most critical time of the year for most consumer-facing businesses? Are you launching new products in 2016 that will have a digital component? Should they? These are all things to consider now, so you don’t need to stress out about them as people begin to disappear for winter vacations.

Taking the time to review what has worked and what needs to change, planning realistically around the holidays, making some bets on new tech and putting a solid plan in place now can help you lead a great 4th quarter drive. Jump on it now and get ready to kick off 2016 with a “win” in the history books for this year!


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