Why your ability to innovate is what will keep you in business
Richard Bennett, Head of Accelerate & Advisory Services, VMware
Fast, faster, faster still. The rate of change is increasing with the latest ‘extraordinary’; whether it’s an iPhone, electric vehicle, e-mail, illumination with the flick of a switch – we’ve seen how fast the exciting becomes ordinary. As organisations and as individuals we’re more and more demanding, expecting the same level of experience in every part of our lives. I’ve got one-click for my book, I can interact with geographically dispersed colleagues in real-time, but if at work my team must use three different applications to identify an accurate dataset as part of a marketing campaign, or product development, or review last week’s performance, which experience am I going to remember?
A business that persists in delivering that type of experience now or in the future is not going to have many advocates, whether they’re customers or employees. Only using those three applications was no doubt a huge improvement on what came before – now it is frustrating and inefficient. The extraordinary, or the innovative, becomes mundane and ordinary fast; becoming obsolete is not far behind.
Extraordinary experiences equal extraordinary performance
Whether the user is an employee or customer matters little – great experiences deliver more engaged employees, more satisfied customers. As Harald Fanderl of McKinsey says; ‘When a customer is satisfied with a company, they are…lower in…cost to serve, but also have a higher potential to be more loyal customers’ – so delivering the experience that results in that satisfaction or engagement is critical.
That is why the demand for better experiences is driving the next stage of digital transformation. Fast, intuitive experiences require fast, intuitive platforms. They require the cultural change that digitisation is driving across all areas of the business. It’s no coincidence that the businesses driving exemplary customer experiences are digital-first – think of how Amazon has revolutionised retail, and how that has changed expectation levels around being able to click once and acquire. Think of how Apple changed the way we access new services through the App Store.
Self-disrupting before someone else disrupts you
Swisscom is another example of a company truly understanding the value of digital transformation and deploying that to deliver extraordinary experiences for customers. A telecoms and IT provider, it initially built a cloud management platform as there weren’t any mature enough CMP products on the market . As the rest of the industry caught up, the company realised that it no longer made sense to focus on building the cloud itself, so it switched to focusing on developing services on the cloud. The result is a standardized platform, simplified processes and improved automation.
By evolving what it offered customers, Swisscom is fuelling innovation in two ways: its customers are reaping the rewards of the new services the telco provider can now provide faster; and the platform is also helping the customers to innovate themselves.
It is a good example of innovation evolving to meet the changing requirements of the customer experience. Gartner predicts that by 2020 five out of the top seven digital giants will have self-disrupted to create their next leadership opportunity. Too often we see industry giants stagnate, either through a refusal or an inability to evolve. To maintain leadership, and to grow, means being able to continually deliver extraordinary experiences – when Swisscom realised it was not offering its customers the best possible experience, it overhauled its offering.
Embrace the unnerving
It is undeniable that change can be unnerving – businesses operate in a climate of the measurable, the evidenced, the tangible. It is understandable that advocating for constant evolution, a culture of always innovating, could be met by resistance. If the platforms, the services, the processes and the infrastructure are in place, however, the risk of innovating is diminished, and the potential results are greatly enhanced. No one can stop the evolution of the user experience – you might be able to out-innovate your competitors, but someone in a completely unrelated industry is working on something right now that is going to force the customer experience on further than we can imagine, and in doing so raise the bar for everyone else. Those businesses that understand it, embrace it and aspire to deliver those extraordinary experiences will be on the front-foot of transformation.