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Getting Your Unfair Advantage?

April 16, 2012

The prolific rate of technological innovation in web/software and hardware in recent years is nothing short of  stunning and keeping up with it all is nothing short of debilitating.   However, in our work helping New Market Entrepreneurs as well as pursuing our own projects in development, we find time and time again that unfair competitive advantage can be won as a result of careful consideration and deployment of technology– many times at little-to-no out-of-pocket costs for the cash-strapped entrepreneur.

Last week we commented on the fact that “social is not a strategy“.  Rather, social is a tactic that must be leveraged as part of your overall strategy.   In this post we’d like to elevate the perspective slightly.   Leveraging technology as PART OF executing Corporate and Go-to-Market strategies can be an element of business strategy.   Perhaps the biggest areas of opportunity to leverage this fast pace of technological innovation for New Market Entrepreneurs building and selling products or services regardless of industry are:

  • Mobile
  • Social
  • Cloud computing

The blinding pace of innovation in these areas needs to be monitored and, where possible, harnessed to bring innovation in building better product and/or marketing/selling and/or delighting customers.   For example, here’s how we are doing it for one of our internal projects:

Functional Area / Goal

Technology Approach (mostly free)

Product Development
  • Enterprise Collaboration Tools like Salesforce Chatter,
  • screen sharing,
  • Free conference
  • Market Surveys via Survey Monkey
  • International video calling via Skype and Google Hangouts
  • Virtual whiteboarding via Conceptboard
Sales and Marketing
  • Contact management, Sales funnel/pipeline management, eMarketing/CRM via Zoho
  • Video-based Flash and HTML5 landing pages with no programming required via Wix
  • Social Content Marketing via Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Hootsuite
  • Gamification via RedDoor and Booshaka
Delighting Customers
  • Building social, mobile and gamification into the very DNA of the product experience.  (Not free, but cost to develop has never been lower.)

As a wrap-up and in further support of these concepts, we thought we would pass along this recent piece from Brian Solis that offers some fantastic insight on the topic of technology-as-a-competitive-weapon.  Here are some excerpts:

Disruptive technology is the bearer of tremendous opportunity and equally a harbinger of obsolescence. Technology’s impact on society and business is substantial, if not underestimated. As technology continues to become part of everyday life, it becomes disruptive in how people communicate, work, and connect. The evolution of society and technology happens with or without adaptation or understanding. And, it’s contributing to a very real phenomenon of Digital Darwinism, a situation where organizations are faced with a need to adapt to markets and customer behavior or risk a loss in favor, competitive advantage or worse, irrelevance.

The truth is that innovation works for and against us and investing in it with purpose and design is our responsibility. Whether you’re an entrepreneur leading the latest or the next hot startup, a business executive seeking solutions or a competitive edge, a decision maker or a champion for change in any industry, this is the time to see through the chaos of features, trends, IPOs, investments, ballooning valuations, et al. to clear a path for meaningful progress.

Part of the challenge is knowing when to recognize opportunities. While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, there is a gap that exists between current needs, evolving pains, and the myriad of solutions hitting desktops, smartphones, tablets and digital appliances every day. The problem is that many organizations aren’t designed to be adaptive. They’re designed to optimize efficiencies and processes. But, times have changed and disruptive technology isn’t as easy to recognize nor capitalize on without a greater mission and purpose or an infrastructure to identify trends, experiment, learn, and scale.

Disruptive technology requires much more than visibility and activity. To master these platforms requires presence and a commitment to steer thoughtful activity within value networks to the benefit of your organization as well as the experiences of those who define it.

To compete for the future, requires a full assessment of how some of the biggest trends in technology impact your business or markets today and how they will influence behavior in the future. While this list may alter, expand or contract based on your industry, the image below should provide a glimpse of just how expansive the landscape is, and while not every technology is affecting the bottom line today, elements are beginning to change the way decisions are made and how people work with one another. At the very least, the golden triangle of cloud, mobile, and social provides a hub to begin the evaluation of both technology and human behavior.

To chart a new course toward relevance, here are five initial steps to consider…

1. Assume that there is a surplus of confusion among users and decision makers within organizations and customers on which technology is trending versus technology that is showing signs of becoming or already is disruptive. Discovering the difference and prioritizing what’s important is critical.

2. Understand that the role of CMO and CIO is becoming closer than ever before. With marketing investing a significant percentage of the overall technology budget now and over time, the “I” in CIO may need to represent innovation to help lead more informed decisions from the inside.

3. Task an existing organization, external partner or develop a new task force to evaluate technology to improve the infrastructure of how your business works, cultivates relationships with customers, employees, and stakeholders, designs better products and services, and demonstrates competitive advantages.

4. Deploy this team to measure technology against a myriad of factors that are important to your business and assess which technologies are worthy of implementation, financial investment, acquisition or experimentation.

5. Re-align the team against a renewed vision, mission and purpose and train employees to use these technologies to achieve desired objectives at the enterprise, LoB, and functional levels…to meet customer and employee expectations and steer delightful experiences.

These are the times when getting caught up in technology, value, and new technology is often mistaken for innovation that inflates the dreaded bubble. What we don’t need is to invest in the wrong technologies simply because posts are constantly written with the “top 10″ ways to grow our business with said platform. While we can watch them grow, the real focus should be on the development of a formal system that measures impact and prioritizes resources around it accordingly.

-read the entire piece

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