Between smart phones, smart pads, apps, cloud computing, and the myriad of other technological advances and transformations occurring today, many company leaders are wondering how to navigate it all. Historically, CEOs and other C-suite executives are used to having control over everything within the company’s walls. As such, they are not happy with the increased focus on such things as cloud computing, yet that’s precisely what their company’s staff is using when they use their personal computers to search Google or access other cloud-based applications.
This dislike for today’s disruptive technology is understandable. It is, after all, outside of the control of the corporate veil the executives have worked so hard to develop and secure. But let’s face it…things like mobile apps, SaaS, XaaS, social media, smart phones and tablets, and a host of other cloud computing options that your employees use, both at home and increasingly at work, are here to stay. Consider this: In early 2010, there were 150,000 apps just in the Apple store. Then that number increased to 200,000 apps. Now, Apple has over 450,000 apps with billions of downloads and that does not count the hundreds of thousands of other apps you can download from companies like Google. So it’s growing fast, with no indication of slowing down.
As a strategic consultant to large organizations, I’m amazed at how many executives are not embracing this paradigm shift. As a leader, you have to ask yourself, “Will there be more heavy hardware and software going to the cloud next year than there is this year? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” That means you can’t ignore it. Many of your own people are using cloud-based services right now. And if they’re using them, being more productive at home than they are in the workplace, and doing things that are more advanced on their smart phones and smart pads (at least in their minds), then your company has a problem. You can’t have people thinking the company is archaic in terms of technology or that the executive team is trying to hold people back. Instead, you need to be helping your people to move forward.
Granted, it’s human nature to protect and defend the status quo, and there are some security concerns with the emerging technologies. But at the same time, you have to remember the old adage that states, “It’s easier to ride a horse in the direction that it’s going.” In this case, the horses of technology are going in a new direction at a pace and speed we’ve never seen before. It’s time for executives to pay attention to this and do more than just go along for the ride.
Case in point: In January 1993, IBM knew the future of its company and it was the most admired company on the planet. But the horses of technology changed direction. By the end of 1993, IBM was getting close to going out of business. It missed the shift. But IBM is not an isolated case. Many other companies have missed the shift. Think about it…when was the last time you bought something from Polaroid, or rented something from Blockbuster, or saw Blackberry as a must-have mobile device?
Today’s gigantic technological shift is already taking place, and the last people who should miss it are today’s business leaders. The shift is here, it’s easy to see, and it’s as plain as day. Therefore, it’s time to start directing the horse on the journey. The question is, “How?”
Time to Redefine
Thanks to today’s technology, companies can redefine who they are, what they offer, and how they offer it. In this case, the current technology shifts are actually tools of creation. As a result, by using technology effectively, your company can create new products, new services, and entire new markets—something technology couldn’t readily do in the past.
Here are some ways to do that:
First, look at your products, services, or industry and see how today’s new technologies can help you redefine things. For example, in early 2000, most people thought Apple was going out of business. That’s when the company used technology to redefine themselves around music. Later they used technology to redefine again with the iPhone, which lead a telecommunications revolution. It didn’t take long and they did it again with the iPad by creating a new class of personal computer. They’ve not only redefined themselves, they’ve also redefined their industry. And it would be foolish to think they won’t do it again in the near future.
So when it comes to your company and your industry, ask yourself some key questions, such as:
- What is growing and what is shrinking?
- Where is the direction of change based on the impact of new technology? (For example, getting more energy efficient is not a trend. It’s long-term. Going green is long-term. Getting more virtual is long-term.)
- Based on where things are going, is there a way to use technology to create new opportunities?
Next, look at how technology is affecting your customers in your industry right now. Examine the overall customer experience as well as who is buying your offerings. Ask yourself:
- Is there a better customer? For example, maybe you’re selling to a customer who is focused on the lowest price.
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Is there a customer you don’t have but should have?
- Could you use technology to redefine your product and attract that customer?
- Is there a way to use technology to enhance your product or service in some way that opens up a market or creates a new market for you?
Finally, look at the specific ways in which you compete in the marketplace as well as what makes your company unique. Then decide how technology can redefine the way you compete. For example, at one time, the Polaroid company was the king of instant photography. But then technology and digital photography changed their industry, and the way they competed (instant photography) changed…but Polaroid didn’t change with it. Instead, they made the mistake many businesses do: they used technology to get more efficient and lower their costs but failed to create new products and markets.
Therefore, ask yourself:
- Is there a way you can use technology to redefine how you compete?
- Is there a way you can use technology to change your product or how you service people?
- Is there a way you can use technology to redefine your customer’s experience?
Yes, the technology revolutions we’re currently experiencing are redefining how companies make money, how professionals work, and how consumers buy. They’re also redefining the strategic role technology plays in companies, enabling them to use it as a tool of creation. As such, savvy executives are analyzing how the company as a whole can use technology to redefine itself in the marketplace.
From mobile finance and banking to geo-social networking tools, every vertical from real estate to manufacturing is going to be redefined in a short period of time. No executive can afford to move slowly; otherwise, he or she may miss the opportunity entirely.
Embrace the Future Today
Using today’s visual, social, mobile and virtual transformations to shape and redefine your company needs to be one of your company’s strategic imperatives. With the cost of hardware continuing to decrease and with bandwidth and processing power continuing to increase, it’s easy to predict that cloud computing, mobile apps, smart phones and tablets will gain even more popularity. As an executive, that can mean one of two things for you: 1) it can be a major headache, or 2) it can be a major opportunity. The difference is in how you look at the shifts and how you embrace the future.
Ultimately, staying ahead and forging new ground during a technology-driven transformation is indeed possible. It’s all about looking at where the market is going rather than where it is today. It’s about looking at where your customer is evolving, not where they used to be. When you change your mindset, ask some key questions, and then take action on what the answers reveal, you can use today’s technology paradigm shifts to redefine your company, improve operations, create new revenue streams, and experience higher profits than ever before.