Focus, Speed and Method for a Differentiation Strategy – You Get All Three!

Focus, Speed and Method for a Differentiation Strategy – You Get All Three!

Published By : Mark Johnson May 14, 2019

I recently began my new position here at Salient Process as a Sr. Account Executive.  As part of my 90-day ramp up, I was asked to describe my view of our differentiation strategy.

I quickly dug deep into my Sales Training and Enablement files to find a chart I have used often to help new sales reps understand the dynamics of competitive differentiation.

Good Cheap Fast

Audiences are quick to have fun with this as they compare favorite restaurants, airlines and the like.  One of my students once joked, “I am slow, but I am expensive.”  This chart prompts good conversation about various competitors and a healthy discussion about the speed at which companies are created and make moves, great marketing (and great marketing “spin”) and yes, how difficult it is to differentiate.  It does make one think as you look in the company mirror.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time explaining our differentiation here, but rather, share my perspective on how three differentiation choices can benefit your company.

For Salient Process, we compete with other IBM partners as well as the Services arms of IBM itself. There are thousands of IBM partners at various levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum – some are smaller, the same size as or larger than us in terms of employees and revenue.  Within this big group, gold level is gold level, period.  From that starting point we differentiate in three ways; Focus, Speed and Method.

Our Focus is we only partner with IBM as a technology partner and within the massive IBM portfolio, we only focus on Digital Business Automation (DBA).  We have a further focus of mostly global 2000 companies.

As a reseller of IBM DBA Platform technologies, Salient decided to build a set of technology accelerators to help our clients with time to market and/or time to value.  This is part of our Speed differentiation.  While we are also a services company, our goal is to get you to a level of self-sufficiency with the IBM DBA platform ASAP, but only when you are ready.

The IBM DBA Platform, which is extensive, can appear to some as complex.  Therefore, we offer a consultative and expert Design Thinking Workshop to help our clients match IBM DBA technology to their type of work.  Salient is the first and only IBM partner to offer this value, helping our clients with speed and decision making.

Finally, we offer our Northstar Method.  Every great services company needs a methodology, and to not have one is a losing proposition.  Salient Process employees live by eight core values, one of them being to Practice What We Preach.  We use IBM DBA technologies to run our company.  Yes, even though the IBM DBA Platform is well suited for large companies with complex challenges, it works just fine for our small company.  The Northstar method is built using the IBM Blueworks Live business modeling tool, which we also use with our clients to model ‘AS IS’ versus ‘TO BE’ processes with full documentation.

So, there you have it, simple – Focus, Speed and Method as a differentiation strategy.

Now, and more importantly, what can your company learn from these three differentiators, and how can you leverage them?


One of the attributes I have enjoyed getting to know our founder Brian is his similar thinking to Steve Jobs, whose following quote I admire:

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex.  You must work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”.

Attaining a high-level focus can be a challenging goal.  It takes time and perseverance to strengthen your company’s ability to focus, but once you’ve reached a certain level, you will see powerful results.

Step back and take the time to understand the value of a focus on process first, and then automation.  We believe processes are fundamental to any company and are one of the natural laws of business, just as gravity is a natural law of the universe.


Taking this small leap of faith to “focus on your processes” is likened to finding the destiny of your company.  In the words of Paulo Coelho, who wrote an international bestselling novel on destiny, The Alchemist, “Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes wide open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want.  No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”


You can’t just perform automation without making sure your processes can function well with automation. After all, making a bad process execute faster only gets you to a bad result that much sooner.

We are all under pressure to move as fast as we can and there is no doubt, technology can help.  But at what cost?  In the words of Steve Goodier “It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.”

Take a 360-degree view of your processes and you will uncover many different types of work.

Step back and take the time to understand the many diverse types of work which exist in your company.  From mundane, repetitive tasks to structured/unstructured processes supported with structured/unstructured data, to human-centric and case management to straight through system-system work.  Once you do this, then and only then should you begin to explore how digital automation technologies can help improve your productivity (efficiency and effectiveness).

At the end of the day, however, it’s a balance between speed and understanding which will result in control.  

Mario Andretti


For many companies, this is their secret sauce.  It’s just become too difficult to solely differentiate by WHAT you market and sell (products and/or services) and therefore, HOW you market and sell, both internally and externally to your customers and suppliers is required to define your true differentiation.

Now we can take the “pick 2 of 3 choices” and consider your quality, costs and priorities.

Good Fast or Cheap Pick Two

Understanding and positioning your method is where it all comes together – incorporating your focus and speed differentiators.  In the words of Zig Ziglar “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have twenty-four-hour days.”

Step back and take time to understand and document your processes and methods.  If this is truly your secret sauce, your golden jewels, then how can anything else be more important to the future success of your company?

SUMMARY – Just be free

Don’t be the company which panics, becomes desperate and begins to offer products and services for free.  Do you really want your customers to choose between garbage and dreams as their choices for your differentiation strategy?

Fast Cheap great Free

At Salient Process we use words like Productivity and Operational Excellence. Being productive means, you maximize output for your total input.  Therefore, in a sense, this wisdom suggests you need to be both effective (doing the right things) and efficient (doing things the right way) in order to be productive.

I once sought to define “what is wisdom” and was pointed to Will Durant.  In his own research he points out that “ideally, wisdom is a total perspective – seeing an object, event or idea in all its pertinent relationships.  Spinoza defined wisdom as seeing things sub specie eternitatis, in view of eternity; I suggest defining it as seeing things sub specie totius, in view of the whole.”

It’s Salient’s hope that you are on a journey to Excellence – one of Operational Excellence.  Along that journey, we also hope you ignite the right habits and behaviors so your knowledge workers can be free (not your products and/or services) to be productive.

In the words of Will Durant, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

No matter what three values you pick as your differentiation strategy, we know you can be GREAT at what you do. From Salient Process, you get all three, but not for free.

To learn more about Salient Process, please contact me at [email protected]