Newport Board Group, an Advisory Firm Serving Middle Market Companies, Issues a Technology Advisory to Growing Businesses

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A Framework for Evaluating Innovation Impact for Your Customer.

If you think you are done with strategic IT projects—there is news! You are not.

Many CEOs of middle market companies think the days of strategic information technology have passed. They did ERP and CRM then moved to the web, got mobile, got social and jumped to the cloud. But with as much money and time has spent on technology, it is just the beginning if middle market companies want to effectively compete with larger competitors.

If you think you are done with strategic IT projects—there is news! You are not. Well, not if you want to remain competitive. There are new technologies here now and on the horizon that are or promise to be disruptive.

  • Artificial Intelligence—allows machines to sense, comprehend and learn.
  • Machine Learning—the computer analyzing data and recognizing patterns so that the organization can anticipate needs and desires.
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality—interactive computer-generated experience including sensory feedback. Augmented reality overlays virtual information on real items.
  • Blockchain—a method of executing and recording transactions that cuts out many of the intermediaries.
  • Internet of Things (IOT)—marries the physical to the digital word, enabling monitoring and action.
  • Simulation—the imitation of a situation or process typically for learning purposes.
  • And as they say, many, many more…

Any or all of these will have a significant impact on business and will be a negative for those who do not respond correctly.

Taking the First Step

The first step is to understand the change each of these technologies represents to business. The web has more information than you will ever want to read. To get on the best search for your purpose, start search requests with phrases such as “the impact of…” or “the effects of.” Otherwise your search will provide technical answers, not business impact. Also keep in mind the thought from Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great" that “technology is an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” Read another way, it means if you do not have momentum with your customers a technical innovation will not help. Your customers need to see your company as having positive impact with them to begin with. Additionally, once you commit to an innovation, you must deliver. This is not for those who cannot execute.

Once you understand the impact of the technology, it is time to talk to your customers; however, not just any customer. Only talk to the ones who have a reputation for being an innovator or early adopter of technical innovations. Look to your top ten customers in terms of the profits they bring to your company. Adjusting your business to others is not wise. Determining who of the ten adopt early technology can come from your experience with them or study their current presence on the web. The ones to speak to will have a modern web presence that supports some of the following:

  • Web-enabled transactions
  • Web-enabled status of current operations
  • Social media presence
  • A person or department in the company that is task with applying new innovations

Avoid customers who implement innovations by tasking innovations to someone who intends to deliver, but never quite gets there.

Present the right customers with your list of innovations and ask how would this improve their profitability. Do not be surprised if they do not initially know. However, do not be surprised if some of them respond enthusiastically and ask to help you in the process. Also, do not be surprised if they wave off the innovation and tell you to improve your base level of service before you go down the innovations path. The latter is something you should hear with humility and be willing to address the opportunity.

Engaging your customers in this process will demonstrate to them that you are serious about improving their success.

Bill Doran is a partner in the Florida practice of the Newport Board Group

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