How to (not) become a Digital Enterprise – Prioritizing Customer-Focused Innovation

This blog post is the second of a five-part series based on the keynote I presented at CamundaCon 2019 (You can find the recording on YouTube). You can read the first blog in this series here.

In essence, I recommend:

  • Prioritizing customer-focused innovation.
  • Bringing technology to the heart of your company.
  • Automating your business, one project at a time.
  • Putting executives in charge who care about long-term success, their people and the world.

Why focus innovation on your customers?

It’s all about the customers and the power they have gained over the past 10 years. Forrester announced the age of the customer years ago, but I think many executives have just recently begun to realize what that really means.

There are a number of ways to improve the value that your company can provide to your customers. You can offer more convenient ways to consume your products. You can become faster — a typical technical example is by unbundling batches that run overnight and processing each single request instantly instead. You can give visibility on progress, like the Uber car I can watch on the map while waiting for it (why not offer something similar for the damage claim settlement) and you can become more flexible to offer new products, faster.

All this you can do, but you have to prioritize it. You have to prioritize it over other potential activities, like running the next brand building campaign, or trying to realize better margins by bringing supplier costs down, trying out some weird cross-selling ideas (all of this is actually happening by the way), or trying to replace employees with robots because "robots don’t go on vacation".

What does Customer-focussed Innovation look like?

This is one of the slides I used in my CamundaCon presentation, which sums this questions up nicely:

Customer Focused Innovation

I am not saying the examples on the right hand side doesn’t make sense, they can make a ton of sense. But the problem is that this is where big corporations tend to gravitate towards, because they already have a strong brand, or the potential for a strong buying power etc., so this is their preferred battlefield where they can occupy the high ground.

Only problem being, that the battle isn’t happening there. It’s happening over on the left hand side. No startup has ever disrupted any industry because of stuff on the right hand side. It’s always about the stuff on the left. And over there, established organizations do not have the high ground. They’re suddenly fighting an uphill battle, because of their legacy. Legacy of technology, of people, of process. Especially of process.

Just in case you haven’t noticed, this customer-focused innovation is almost always about better processes, at scale. Successful startups are not about the "right idea", they’re about executing that idea, by crafting excellent operations that can scale. And again, this is where established organizations are often at a disadvantage.

But that doesn’t mean they can avoid the fight. They need to prioritize this, now.

But how can they make it happen?

Next week I’ll be discussing how to do just this, by bringing technology to the heart of your company.

In the meantime, if you’d like to see how prioritizing customer-focussed innovation can transform a business, check out this CamundaCon 2019 presentation from Deutsche Telekom who always need to be ahead of the game to provide the best possible customer experience.

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