I believe that in the coming decade, every company will either become a technology company or will lose significant market share to their competitors that have fully embraced technology, not as a core foundation of their business practice.
Harvard Business Review recently shared a Whiteboard Session led by co-authors, Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, explaining five ways that a business will change when it starts operating as a software business. It reviews how to recognize when traditional aspects should be replaced with more adaptive and data-driven approaches using technology.
Sense & Respond
Traditionally, the conversations with our consumers were based on the end result being the purchase of a product or service. Now, with programs such as Google Analytics, and our own Shuttle’s user tracking, we can monitor the interactions between our users and our websites giving us great insight into their behavior before the final result. Technology allows us to build a “2-way conversation with the market” offering us a way to meet the needs of our customers. The ability to sense your customers’ needs, actions, and behaviors and appropriately respond is crucial to provide the best user experience.
How did moving a button or changing a color impact user behavior? Test, respond, and test again, moving prospective customers further down the purchasing funnel.
This term is often used but rarely implemented in the manner intended, however, many companies are now recognizing the importance of cross-functional teams getting together to break down silos and produce exceptional products or services. The idea of “knowledge-work” refers to how this concept of collaborating on ideas for every aspect of a product or service replaces the traditionally linear approach to production. The adage, “Two heads are better than one” could easily apply to “two or more teams are better than one.” Decisions should be made with the contributions and influence of stakeholders across teams in order to best represent the interests of the customer.
Embrace the Pace of Change
Technology changes quickly and technological changes may start out slow, speed up, and then rapidly skyrocket. According to Moore’s Law, computing power doubles about every 2 years. Technology adoption by consumers can happen in a fraction of that time and businesses must always be ready to pivot according to market changes. Rapid changes can sound painful or even scary when it comes to your business, but it needn’t be. With these rapid changes, as companies, we can adapt quickly too. We can test new ideas, measure the success based on consumer behavior and choose whether to scale an initiative or pivot. Management can use technology to be adaptable and embrace these changes.
Getting Over the Culture Change
Similar to collaboration, management should empower their employees who have varying backgrounds to join in the software discussions. As Josh Seiden said, it shouldn’t just be an IT concern or even a software developers topic. All employees are stakeholders in the success of the product or service, so they too should be a part of the ongoing conversations. For a culture change to occur effectively, a conscious shift needs to happen within the workplace to offer a safe learning zone. In other words, having a culture where ideas are tested and “given a shot” is critical to prevent the fear of failure and analysis paralysis.
Focus on Outcomes
Technology allows us to test our products and services to iterate and continuously improve. The “connection between what we make and what people will do with it is unpredictable,” says Gothelf, so you have to try it out and test the results.
Management can alter their perspectives away from asking for something to be produced to the actual outcomes of that production. By focusing on outcomes, we can ask questions such as — How did consumers use it? What was it used for? Did we hypothesize correctly? Are customers satisfied?
When businesses and individuals focus on outcomes, iterative testing of solutions becomes par for the course. A failure is perceived as a learning experience and a chance to further fine-tune the technology used by a business in order to account for additional exceptions, use cases, and scenarios.
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